Protect and serve; that is the responsibility of police officers throughout our country. Law enforcement is meant to keep those who would impose upon the safety and freedom of others off the streets. But what happens when police officers are the ones perpetrating crimes against American citizens? When law enforcement becomes militarized and decides to play G.I. Joe, when our guardians become our assailants, what hope do we have? It would seem that the answer is “none”.
Widespread abuse of power from local police departments is raising many questions about the justifications for the use of physical aggression, SWAT raids, and lethal force. Within the past month, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of cases of inappropriate police activity nationwide, often with tragic outcomes.
Let’ start with an incident in Houston, TX on the morning of September 22nd, when a wheelchair-bound, double-amputee was shot in the head by police when he attempted to attack an officer using a ballpoint pen… I’ll give you a moment to re-read that and confirm the total absurdity of this scenario… Brian Claunch, who lost and arm and a leg in a train accident, was a middle-aged schizophrenic who received treatment at a local facility for the mentally ill. When officers arrived to address reports of aggressive behavior from Claunch, the scene quickly turned deadly. Now, obviously violence toward the police is not to be taken lightly. But just how much of a threat did a man in a wheelchair, with one arm, and an ink pen really pose to the officers? With multiple officers present, was there no other logical course of action than to shoot Claunch in the head? And what responsibility does law enforcement have to practice restraint when dealing with the mentally ill? But why ask such silly questions? It’s not every day that police get to take such a dangerous criminal off the streets permanently, right? Officer Matt Marin, who shot Claunch, was placed on administrative leave.
Moving on chronologically, we find ourselves in New York on October 8, where two officers reported to a local synagogue to deal with an apparent case of trespassing. The problem was, Ehud Halevy was not actually trespassing. Halevy had been sleeping at the synagogue every night for a month, with permission, when a volunteer security guard (unaware of this arrangement) called the police. When the officers arrived, Halevy attempted to explain that he was allowed to be there and pulled his arm away when the police attempted to usher him out of the building. Apparently this was enough to constitute “assaulting an officer, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespassing, resisting arrest, harassment” and possession of marijuana (charges which were later dropped) and warrant a brutal two minute beating from the officers using fists and a baton, all caught by a surveillance camera. If you watch the video, you will see how quickly this attack stops once no less than ten additional officers show up to the scene. Thus far, the only charge against the officers being considered is a misdemeanor for making false statements that Halevy had attacked them. Now that’s what I call justice!
Fast-forward 24 hours to October 9 in Billings, MT. After some thorough investigating, a SWAT team was sent to raid a home suspected of housing a meth lab. Apparently the investigation wasn’t quite thorough enough, as the police ended up at the wrong home. To make matters worse, an officer who admittedly did not understand how a flash-bang grenade functions dropped the explosive through the bedroom window of an unsuspecting 12-year-old girl. The girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching, who was also home during the raid, says that her daughter was treated for “first and second degree burns” and that the traumatic experience will likely require that she bring her daughter to counseling. She added that, “a simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in.” But who has time to knock on a door when trying to shut down a meth lab? Don’t you know that narcotics manufacturers build their labs beside the toilet so that they can quickly flush the entire setup in an instant? …That’s sarcasm for those of you who are not familiar with the finer points of meth production. A claims process has been started to address the incident and Police Chief Rich St. John has stated that, “if we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it, but if [the claim process] determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that.” If you’re wrong? Please Mr. St. John, tell us what information you require to gain clarity on the situation.
Finally, we examine the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Michael Nida in Los Angeles in October of last year. It has just been decided that Officer Steve Gilley will not be facing any charges concerning the incident. Did I mention that Gilley opened fire on Nida with a submachine gun? Granted, police were pursuing Nida as a suspect in a robbery, the details of the incident show that Nida was warned that Gilley would “blow his head off” if he continued to act aggressively, and Nida did run from the police and resist arrest. But in the end, it turns out that Nida was not the robbery suspect that the police were after and was unarmed, leading one to wonder why he behaved in the way he did. Only Nida knows the answer to that question, and he is no longer around to explain his actions. However, there are plenty of people who be questioned as to why local police officers are wielding high-powered, automatic weapons in the first place. In the words of Officer John McClane, “Yippee-ki-yay mother%#*er!”
This pattern of police behavior certainly helps me to feel secure as a law-abiding citizen. I now know that I can rest assured that law enforcement will continue to act in the best interest of those that they protect, by beating, burning, and shooting their way to a safer world for everyone. In addition, it’s good to know that, when an officer does step over the line, they will face swift and appropriate justice, just as I would if I were to do something reckless and violent such as shooting a schizophrenic cripple, throwing an explosive at a child, or mercilessly bludgeoning an unarmed man… Oh, wait a minute, I guess not… Welcome to the police state.