I hate repeating myself but this Blog was never intended to be political, address issues of race or racism, and I certainly never envisioned so many posts about the police and the “cancer” of police brutality.
This Blog was always intended to be focused on what I deem my “cancer chaos” and some lessons on life, love, hope, survival and whatnot.
However, a pandemic is happening right before my eyes, one in which the world has never seen before. And at this point we’re apparently seeing it as a positive that only about 600 people are now dying a day in the U.S. Yay! (If my sarcasm isn’t coming across, it is past 1:00 a.m. so cut me some slack)
Combine this with the uprising of a brand new civil rights movement, met with the same disdain such movements have elicited from law enforcement for decades now, well I simply cannot ignore these issues. I WISH the only thing I needed to tackle was my cancer journey! (Sigh) Sadly, It is not.
Who the f—-k ever said, by the way? Sorry. In real life I curse like a sailor. Thus, it sometimes comes out in my writing. 🤷🏻♀️ It’s just me, so please do not take offense.
Anyway, this linked article was written by a retired police officer, and addresses as she aptly puts it, the “cancer, insidiously infecting the squads.” This “cancer” is “rude, dismissive, aggressive, or abusive cops.” Specifically, she discusses the well-known problem, one of many I might add, with police-the “Code of Silence”.
As they say in Yonkers, NY and I’m sure many other areas, “SnitchesGet Stitches”. In other words, cops don’t rat out fellow officers.
In this Post, this retired officer hits the nail on the head:
We refuse to look at our racist past in the eye and deal with it and it is long past time for our police culture to stop pretending race isn’t still a significant issue. The people of color in our communities still feel the undertow of bias in many encounters. They are frustrated by our collective failure to do anything meaningful day to day. We need to drop our defensive shields and get real with our fellow citizens.
I MAY HAVE UNDERGONE 7 BRAIN SURGERIES AND STILL COGNITIVELY ALRIGHT FOR THE MOST PART, BUT I CANNOT COMPREHEND THE WORLD WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW
When I originally thought of this Post, I had a very basic outline in this lil ol’ brain of mine. Yet, as I began putting “paper to pen” shall we say, I never realized how many of my ideas tied-in together in such detail. So, what was intended to be a single Post became two and now three.
If you have time and appreciate my writing, please read all the Posts under this series.
In Part 3.01, I discussed several issues:
as a white girl, I cannot speak for the Movement, but simple research shows that the “Black Lives Matter” Movement is obviously a “Black liberation movement” but it seeks justice and equality for all marginalized within our society. See the website for detailed information https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/
white privilege, with a focus on our judicial system
sexism, racism and inequality
why the Movement is so important and “Remember their Names”
Throughout this series of Posts, I’ve touched on the issue of police brutality and the “police state” I believe we’re now living under. So this Post will focus on: the militarization of our police forces in the States; more on the demonstrations; my experience with police; and recent actions by some officials to actually help de-militarize the police.
As this is a major issue today, and frankly a trend I’ve personally noticed over the years, I wanted a full subsection dedicated to the police. So, Part 3.04 will focus on the riots and looting , which are not a part of these demonstrations, yet people are pointing to this vandalism and blaming the Movement; and, how the right-wing has taken it upon themselves to carry firearms and purposely intimidate demonstrators, acting as their own civilian police force.
Our New “Police State”
This is what American city streets look like right now:
Photo Number 1 Swarms of police in riot gear in Minneapolis, surrounded by illuminated “beanbag rounds”, a method now used to disperse crowds, which consist of small, fabric beanbags filled with lead weights fired from 12-guage shotguns.
Photos Number 2 & 3 depict officers carrying “beanbag” shotguns. Obviously, Photo 3 is very disturbing as the people depicted have their hands up, yet the officers have “beanbag” shotguns aimed directly at them.
Photo Number 4 depicts the injuries just one demonstrator suffered from these “beanbag rounds”
Photo Number 5 may actually be the most disturbing to me, personally.
Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old “Black Lives Matter” demonstrator, was forcibly shoved by 2 Buffalo, NY officers on June 4, 2020. As he lay on the ground, bleeding officers simply continued stomping past him. Currently, he is recovering from a fractured skull and is unable to walk. He remains hospitalized. The entire video of the encounter can be viewed here. However, it is very disturbing (if you have a heart, anyway). https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/16/us/martin-gugino-protester-skull/index.html
Despite being designed to cause “minimum long-term trauma and no penetration”, a direct hit from a “beanbag” or rubber bullet gun can cause:
a round to the chest may break the ribs and send the broken ribs into the heart
a shot to the head can break the nose, crush the larynx, or break the neck or skull
a shot in the abdominal area can cause internal bleeding
a shot in the eye can cause the eyeball to rupture
there is one known case in which a direct hit also resulted in death
On May 31, 2020, 20-year-old Justin Howell, a Texas State University college student, was shot in the head with a “beanbag” round by the Austin, TX police while he was filming a protest. Someone next to him threw something towards officers. While intending to hit that individual, police shot Justin “by mistake”. He suffered a skull fracture leading to a seizure and brain trauma. As if that were not horrific enough, there are videos showing the police firing at volunteer paramedics and protesters carrying Howell’s limp body to get him medical attention!
Initially, his injuries put him into a coma, and as of several weeks ago, he remained in critical condition. Doctorstold his family the skull fracture resulted in brain damage.
Literally the day after Justin Howell’s shooting, on June 1, 2020, a 16-year-old, Brad Levi Ayala, also suffered a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a “beanbag” round by the Austin Police! He was simply standing alone on a hill after work in a deli.
He had to undergo a seven-hour surgery, which included a skin graft (something I know about all too well), but thankfully did not suffer permanent brain damage.
The stories of Martin Gugino, Justin Howell and Brad Levi Ayala are the stories nightmares are made of! They were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Yet, they suffered devastating injuries by police “high on their own power”.
I know what it’s like to try and recover from a brain injury! I will never be the person I was before. I cannot do so many of the things I loved to do. No matter how hard I work to stay strong, my brain just does not communicate with the rest of my body like it did before brain cancer.
I fear Martin, Justin, Brad and likely many others will experience these same issues, all because they wanted to be involved in a movement for civil rights. It truly breaks my heart.
Police Brutality against protestors had gotten so bad, Seattle created a police-free district, known as “Chaz”, where people are gathering to demonstrate, listen to speakers and attend events without fear. In reaction to this, Trump referred to the protestors as “domestic terrorists” and threatened to “invade” the City. Seattle’s Mayor spoke out that such rhetoric was an attempt to divide and incite violence, that it would not only be unwelcome but also illegal.
Yet, on June 7th a white man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in the area, then shot and wounded a black demonstrator who confronted him as he came to a stop. Then, in the early morning hours of June 20th, a 19-year-old man was killed and another person was in critical condition after a pre-dawn shooting in the area. No information on the shooter was available at the time I sit here writing this Post, hanging my head in shame.
Why can’t people in this country simply accept peace?
My Personal Experience In Our Not-So-New “Police State”
I briefly mentioned in Part 3.01 that I never liked “authority figures”. I have respect for city police, who do truly risk their lives and put themselves in danger to protect society as a whole. It’s like firefighters, who actually run into burning buildings to save lives, going against our human instinct to run away from those situations.
In the burbs, where I grew up though-honestly, the police were mostly jerks on a power trip just busting kids for underage drinking… not exactly life or death scenarios.
I was pre-law in undergrad. I took political science classes with guys who were planning on careers in law enforcement, and they weren’t doing so believing it was their “civic duty”. They were weasely guys (no surprise) on a power trip believing they’d become State Troopers. I’ve also heard the racist comments from Sheriff’s Officers in courthouses while interning for judges, and then as a practicing attorney. As if that weren’t vile enough, I know one fellow graduate from law school, who clerked for a criminal judge after graduating and relayed some of the racist rhetoric that judge would spew back in chambers, behind closed doors. I’m blatantly honest in this blog. Soooo… I’ll admit that I’ve never totally loved the police or any authority figure, for that matter, who believe they’re untouchable.
Thankfully, I have not had many interactions with police officers, but hey, I’ve gotten 2 tickets when I did drive. Both times the officers acted like Commando, pulling me over for the dumbest violations, though everyone probably says that, right? However, two personal incidents with the police still gnaw at me to this day.
Let me be clear:These are extremely minor in comparison to what is going on today. However, I think they demonstrate the mentality of many in law enforcement. Hence, the problems that arise when people with way too much power believe they can do anything they want without reprecussion.
One incident occurred when I had just started working at my first firm. These were the days when if you had a GPS system, you’d have to mount it onto your windshield or dashboard. No Google Maps or Waze yet. My car was parked on the street and I had come back very late from work. So, I forgot to take the GPS out of its mount and bring it inside. In the morning, I had a court appearance or conference on a case. Already nervous being new to the firm and having to argue a case, I went out to my car only to find my driver’s side window totally smashed, shattered glass all over the seat and my GPS stolen. What’s the normal reaction when that occurs? You call the police, right?
Now, I was living in an area just outside of Manhattan in New Jersey. So, it was not the burbs. It was an urban area, yet not a dangerous one. It was also about 7:00 or 8:00 am – not a bustling time for crime. The police refused to come and told me if I needed a report (which I did for insurance purposes) I’d have to drive to the station. Thankfully, a group of kind construction workers saw my car and me ugly-crying because I didn’t have a clue how I’d drive a car covered in shattered glass. They cleaned off the seat as best they could and one even gave me his gloves to wear! Kindness, it goes a longway. Such a novel idea!
Once I got to the police station, I was berated by the desk officer blaming mefor leaving the GPS visible. He actually said, “What did you think would happen leaving the GPS out?” Hmmm, I wonder how he would feel if someone smashed his window and stole his property? He even tried pushing me to NOT to file a report (i.e. he didn’t want to bother his @ss writing the report).
As an aside: A couple I knew in law school lived in this town. Most of us did, or in the surrounding areas. Their apartment was broken into while they slept! They got the same treatment. A broken window and a stolen GPS is one thing. Having your home violated AND your property stolen is a whole ‘nother thing. Yet, the police could have cared less!
The next incident occurred in the same town. As I’m writing this, I wonder why I didn’t just move away, but hindsight is 20/20. Anyway, I saw a girl outside a store with what was clearly a “bait dog” used for dog fighting. I’m a severe animal lover and my dog is a rescue. This poor thing was emaciated and covered in both old and fresh wounds. Yet, it was only about 5-6 months old. I didn’t handle myself, admittedly, in the most gracious manner. I approached her and asked her where she had gotten the dog from (maybe she had rescued it, for all I knew). She just ignored me and turned away. So, in my mind that convinced me – this was no rescue dog! The scene escalated, as her mother came out of the store screaming and cursing at me. She hurled insults at me. I’ll say, I was not so pleasant in return. I called the police, hoping they’d see this dog obviously in distress, and take it. Nope!
Now, it turned out the girl was apparently deaf. I do not feel proud of myself or defend myself for yelling at a deaf teenager/young adult. However, she did not sign or indicate she was deaf. So, I frankly had no idea. The mother-I have no regrets for my actions. Now to the point: a Suburban SUV and a squad car pull up. Slow day, I guess?
At least 5, maybe 6 police officers get out. Who do they surround? Me. The “Head Honcho” steps up about 2-3 feet from me, armed crossed, legs sprayed out in his “tough guy” stance with his minions behind while the mother continues screaming and cursing at me. At least he quieted her down. He begins to interrogate me why I would yell at a deaf person (Oh yeah, the mother had called the police on me too). My reply, “Well obviously I didn’t know she was deaf!” So, in his tough guy voice, he begins to berate me that I “attacked a deaf person”. I’m disabled myself! I would NEVER intentionally do that. As I’m attempting to explain why I was questioning the girl I stated to the officer, “That is clearly a bait dog” the mother began her rant again. She even admitted, the police had just taken the dog away from her because it was “in a fight” so she just got it back!!! Despite the fact she was basically admitting to what I accused her of, did “tough guy” listen to her admission? Nope!
He continued standing there basically in my face, I suppose trying to intimidate me. Well, I may be tiny, but I don’t intimidate very easily. His minions kept looking down at the dog and I could see in some of their faces, they knew I was right. Finally, “tough guy” turns his attention to the dog, it wags its tail at him and he literally says, “It looks happy enough. I don’t see any basis to take the dog from its owner.” I literally threw up my hands, because I could actually do that then, and said, “Well, you’re the authority. It’s your decision. That’s a bait dog and it’s on YOU for not taking it.”
I walked away just shaking my head in disgust. Part of that was because a swarm of police officers, driving expensive, shiny new vehicles came to the scene of a minor, ridiculous incident, and THEN acted as if they had just seized a major amount of drugs from a wanted dealer or something. The show of force was utterly needless, and only meant to intimidate the “suspect” i.e. Me.
Commuting in and out of NYC, I always noticed what I felt was an excessive show of force in Port Authority, Penn Station, Grand Central, and just along the streets of Manhattan. Do we REALLY need National Guard and cops with giant machine guns every few hundred feet? If they don’t intimidate me, are they really going to intimidate someone who wants to do major harm?
It’s the same thing at airports. TSA – ya ain’t stoppin’ a terrorist by making everyone take off their shoes, so lose the attitude!
The town where I was raised when we came here from Ireland is an upperclass suburb of NYC. You can even see the skyline from the highway, as the elevation is high enough and it’s only a 30-40 minute drive into Manhattan. Yet, literally nothing happens in our town except maybe kids drinking in the woods and smoking some weed. However, the cops drive around in massive SUVs. They even got some kind of giant armored car years ago. It sits at the volunteer fire station, where we joke that all the “townies” who never left just sit around and drink beers.
I mean, do you REALLY need that many police driving around in Suburbans and brand new Explorers, doing nothing except maybe pulling someone over for going 35 mph down Main Street, which is 25 mph? I’m just glad my tax dollars aren’t paying for that nonsense. Yet, my parents’ tax dollars sure are, as they still live there.
In writing this Post, I became curious about the police budget in my small, extremely safe, upperclass hometown. The 2020 budget for the entire town is around $25 million. The budget for the police-$5.45 million! Wha what?
The police are allocated about 1/5th of the entire town’s budget, who mostly just sit in their cars and stroll into Dunkin Donuts on the regular! I’m not joking. Two friends back in high school worked there and HAD to give every cop who came in everything for free-it was a LOT of free coffee and donuts! More importantly, the budget is likely so high because their AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY is $122,000! At the very least, the minimum requirement to join the police in my hometown is a 4-year college degree, or active military service for 2 years plus a 2-year degree. So, at least they have some education under their belts.
Yet, there are a whole lot of attorneys out there who don’t earn that even after 10 years of practice. Yet, we had to complete 4 years of college, take the LSAT to enter an accredited law school, then complete 3 years of school to acquire our J.D. degree and THEN pass the bar exam just to practice law. You know what I earned when I left law school? $35,000 because I clerked for a judge and salaries are capped!
ThereAreVeryHonorable, GoodPolice OutThere
Listen, I’m definitely focusing on the negative here. There are many honorable men and women, who “wear blue”. There are many, who have even kneeled in support with the protestors.
However, thousands of people are risking their own safety to ironically protest the actions of the VERY people whose duty it is protect us! It’s not “just a few bad apples.” It’s orchards and orchards of bad apples, and no apple carries a gun and shoots oranges dead because they have a different skin type! Let’s just call it what it is …
There is a systematic problem within our police force today.
It’s not a new phenomenon.
So, is police brutality just getting more attention now? Do we know about more because anyone can pull out their phone, and video anything these days? Or, have marginalized people just had enough and simply will not tolerate this anymore?
Let me address just a few prior examples to demonstrate that police have been brutalizing people and/or using their power in sick, sick ways.
Daniel Holtzclaw, the lowest of the low, was an Oklahoma City officer who purposely preyed on black women in the City. He used his position as an officer to run background checks and find information that could be used to coerce victims into sex while on patrol in 2013 and 2014. He specifically targeted black women in poor areas knowing they had outstanding warrants and/or past criminal charges. Holtzclaw was found guilty in 2015 of 18 charges, including rape, forcing women to perform oral sex on him, and sexual battery involving eight women, although there were more women he did this to. He was sentenced to 263 years in prison. Yet, there’s an entire Facebook page dedicated to having him released!
Remember the “cannibal cop”? I don’t know if it reached national news but an NYPD officer, Gilberto Valle III (I appreciate that he used Roman numerals in his name, like some kind of royal prince) was arrested after his wife discovered he was spending time in Internet chat rooms describing detailed plans to abduct, torture, rape and cannibalize women. Valle claimed it was all “mere fantasy”!
The problem with his case – he never actually “committed the crimes”. He was arrested on conspiracy to kidnap and for accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database without authorization. He was convicted by a jury in March 2013. However, the judge overturned the conspiracy to kidnap charge. I’m unclear why the charge was permitted to be considered by the jury, if the judge just went and overturned it. However, there’s enough to discuss without me going “down that wormhole” of research. He served 21 months in jail, and was fired by the NYPD.
Can we truly end, or by God, at least reduce police brutality?
Police Reform Bills
After all the pain and suffering, the deaths, the beatings, and the protests, some states and city councils are indeed passing police reform bills.
The District of Columbia’s City Council passed a series of reforms, which prohibit the use of chemical agents, riot gear and stun guns against people exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
Yet, not all attempts at police reform have been successful. While The Minneapolis City Council announced plans to disband its police department and instead, invest in community-based public safety programs, the Minnesota legislature failed to pass a state-wide police reform bill.
So, while reform is being passed in some places, attempts at reform are failing in others. Yet, protests continue and in turn, more stories of police brutality are coming to light.
Derrick Ollie Scott (42), an Oklahoma City man, died at the hands of police during his arrest in 2019. Before the murder of George Floyd, police refused to release bodycam footage of the incident. However, due to protests and the Floyd case, the Oklahoma City Police Dept. finally released the footage. It is disturbing, at best. Now, Scott was running from police and a gun was found in his pocket. However, he did not aim the gun or brandish it towards the police. In fact, watching the video, it appears to me he was running for his life, which ultimately he rightfully should have been given what transpired.
Once he began to run, Scott was tackled and thrown to the ground by a male officer. Immediately, Scott began gasping, stating, “I can’t breathe”. Another officer so kindly replied, “I don’t care”. Scott repeatedly said “I can’t breathe”, “Okay” and “Please” while one officer straddled him and handcuffed him. A female officer dug her knee into his shoulder, and threatened to tase him. Then the officers rolled him onto his side while pushing his head onto the ground. Medical personnel arrived at the scene, put him on a stretcher and fully strapped him down. At this point, Scott was crying out while being told, “Don’t resist. You’re fine.” He died while in custody shortly afterward.
Scott’s family saw the video. His mother stated, “[t]hey treated him…So inhuman. Like he was an animal.”
The three officers involved were absolved of any wrongdoing.
George Floyd did not deserve to die. His life was taken in such a brutal way. However, his name will live on in infamy. We will remember him. We will honor his name, as well as so many other people of color who died at the hands of police, believing they had the RIGHT to take those lives.
No child should EVER have to hold a sign like this. Please know, whoever you are, lil man – YOU MATTER!
I PRAY YOUGROW UP IN A KINDER, GENTLER WORLD. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US TO ENSURE THAT HAPPENS.