America’s Police Brutality
By Paul Craig Roberts
-- -- Bush’s “war on terror” quickly became Bush’s war on
Iraqi civilians. So far over one million Iraqi civilians have
lost their lives because of Bush’s invasion, and four million
have been displaced. Iraq’s infrastructure is in ruins. Disease
is rampart. Normal life has disappeared.
Self-righteous Americans justify these monstrous crimes as
necessary to ensure their own safety from terrorist attack.
Yet, Americans are in far greater danger from their own police
forces than they are from foreign terrorists. Ironically, Bush’s
“war on terror” has made Americans less safe at home by
diminishing US civil liberty and turning an epidemic of US
police brutality into a pandemic.
only terrorist most Americans will ever encounter is a policeman
with a badge, nightstick, mace and Taser. A Google search for
“police brutality videos” turns up 2,210,000 entries. Some
entries are foreign and some are probably duplications, but the
number is so large that a person could do nothing but watch
police brutality videos for the rest of his life. A search on
“You Tube” alone turned up 2,280 police brutality videos.
PrisonPlanet has a selection of the most outrageous recent
Police brutality has crossed the line from using excessive force
against a resisting Rodney King to unprovoked gratuitous
violence against persons offering no resistance, such as the
elderly, women, students, and elected officials. Americans are
not safe anywhere from police. Police attack Americans in
university libraries, in public meetings, and in their own homes
Last week we had the case of the University of Florida student
who was repeatedly Tasered without cause for asking Senator
Kerry some good questions in the question and answer period
following Kerry’s speech. Two days after the Florida student was
gratuitously brutalized, Senate Republicans defeated Vermont
Democrat Patrick Leahy’s bill to restore habeas corpus
UCLA student was Tasered by police without cause for studying in
the university library without having having his student ID on
his person. Following police orders to leave, the student was
walking toward the door when police grabbed him and repeatedly
September 19, 2007 a young woman was repeatedly Tasered without
cause by a large brutal cop in a parking lot outside a night
club in Warren Ohio.
September 14, 2007, Roseland, Indiana, city council member David
Snyder was ejected from a council meeting by dictatorial council
chairman Charlie Shields. Snyder had protested being limited to
one minute to speak. Police goon Jack Tiller escorted Snyder
out, and as Synder exited the building, Tiller, following
behind, pushed Snyder to the ground and without cause began
beating Snyder in the head with a nightstick. Snyder was
Local TV news stations throughout the US offer an endless stream
of police brutality videos, which are then posted on the
stations’ web sites, often with an opportunity for citizens to
express their opinion of the incidents.
There are many disturbing aspects to police brutality cases.
disturbing aspect is that the police always arrest the people
that they have gratuitously brutalized. There was no
justification whatsoever to arrest councilman Snyder, or the
UCLA student, or the University of Florida student. The cops
committed assault against innocent citizens. The cops should
have been arrested for their criminal acts. Instead, the cops
cover up their own crimes by arresting their victims on false
charges that are invented to justify the unprovoked police
violence against citizens.
Another disturbing aspect is that no one tells the police to
stop the brutality. “Free” Americans are so intimidated by
police that on February 19 of this year male customers in a
Chicago bar stood aside while a drunk cop weighing 251 pounds
beat a 115 pound barmaid, knocking her to the floor with his
fists and repeatedly kicking her, for obeying the bar rules and
not serving him more drinks. [http://blog.totalinjury.com/archives/personal-injury-cases-in-the-news-police-brutality-updates-chicago-police-brutality-video-tough-to-stomach.html]
another disturbing aspect is that a minority of citizens will
justify each act of police brutality no matter how brutal and
how unprovoked. For example, WNDU.com’s poll of its viewers
found that 64.2% agreed that Snyder was a victim of police
brutality, but 27.8% thought that Snyder got what was coming to
him. “Law and order conservatives” and other authoritarian
personalities invariably defend acts of police brutality.
Perhaps the police brutality pandemic will bring the day when we
will be able to say that a civil libertarian is a law and order
conservative who has been brutalized by police.
most disturbing aspect is that the police usually get away with
remember decades ago when civil libertarians in New York City
tried to stop police brutality by establishing civilian review
boards to introduce some accountability into the police’s
interaction with civilians. Law and order conservatives at
William F. Buckley’s National Review went berserk.
Accountability was “second-guessing” the police. The result
would be a crime wave. And so on.
Police forces have always attracted bullies with authoritative
personalities who desire to beat senseless anyone who does not
quake in their presence. In the past police could get away with
brutalizing blacks but not whites. Today white citizens are as
likely as racial minorities to be victims of police brutality.
police are supreme. The militarization of the police, armed now
with military weapons and trained to view the general public as
the enemy, against whom “pain compliance” must be used, has
placed every American at risk of personal injury and false
arrest from our “public protectors.”
“free and democratic America,” citizens are in such great danger
from police that there are websites devoted to police brutality
with online forms to report the brutality.
Nine years ago Human Rights Watch published a report entitled,
“Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in
the United States.” The report stated:
“Police abuse remains one of the
most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United
States. The excessive use of force by police officers, including
unjustified shootings, severe beatings, fatal chokings, and
rough treatment, persists because overwhelming barriers to
accountability make it possible for officers who commit human
rights violations to escape due punishment and often to repeat
their offenses. Police or public officials greet each new
report of brutality with denials or explain that the act was an
aberration, while the administrative and criminal systems that
should deter these abuses by holding officers accountable
instead virtually guarantee them impunity.
“This report examines common
obstacles to accountability for police abuse in fourteen large
cities representing most regions of the nation. The cities
examined are: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis,
Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia,
Portland, Providence, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
Research for this report was conducted over two and a half
years, from late 1995 through early 1998.
“The brutality cases examined,
which are set out in detail in chapters on each city, are
similar to cases that continue to emerge in headlines and in
survivors' complaints. It is important to note, however, that
because it is difficult to obtain case information except where
there is public scandal and/or prosecution, this report relies
heavily on cases that have reached public attention;
disciplinary action and criminal prosecution are even less
common than the cases set out below would suggest.
There is no way to hold police
accountable when the president and vice president of the United
States, the attorney general, and the Republican Party maintain
that the civil liberties and the separation of powers mandated
by the US Constitution must be abandoned in order that the
executive branch can keep Americans safe from terrorists. [
Even before the “war on terror,”
federal police murdered 100 people in the Branch Davidian
compound at Waco, and no one was held accountable. [
Who is a terrorist? If the
police and the US government have the mentality of airport
security, they cannot tell a terrorist from an 86-year old
Marine general on his way to give a speech at West Point.
Retired Marine Corps General Joseph J. Foss was delayed and
nearly had his Medal of Honor confiscated. Airport security
regarded the pin on the metal as a weapon that the 86-year old
Marine general and former governor of South Dakota could use to
hijack an airliner and commit a terrorist deed.
In America today, every citizen
is a potential terrorist in the eyes of the authorities.
Airport security makes this clear every minute of every day, as
do the FBI and NSA with warrantless spying on our emails, postal
mail, telephone calls, and every possible invasion of our
privacy. We are all recipients of abuse of our constitutional
rights whether or not we suffer beatings, Taserings, and false
The law makes it impossible for
Americans to defend themselves from police brutality. Law and
order conservatives have made it a felony with a long prison
sentence to “assault a police officer.” Assaulting a police
officer means that if a police thug intends to beat your brains
out with his nightstick and you disarm your assailant, you have
“assaulted a police officer.” If you are not shot on the spot
by his backup, you will be convicted by a “law and order” jury
and sent to prison.
No matter how gratuitous and
violent the police brutality, a “free” American citizen can
defend himself only at the expense, if not of his life, of a
long stay in prison. Osama bin Laden must wish that he had such
power over Americans.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is
the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of
Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy
and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions :
How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution
in the Name of Justice.
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