"Bad Cops, Bad Cops – What Ya Gonna Do When They Come For You?"
As we await the predictable Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown murder, let us reflect on the police. Nearly every institution in this society has come to low repute among many – even, now the Red Cross, which has been exposed as top-heavy organization more interested in donor dollars than helping people, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Of course, Grand Juries themselves are kangaroo courts loaded with secret ‘prominent’ citizens, where the accused has few or no rights - unless you are a cop.
Then there is ‘Pointergate.” The police here in Minneapolis recently collaborated with a right-wing reporter at Hubbard-owned KSTP-5 television station to ‘gang-bait’ the Democratic Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges. Hubbard owns about 13 TV stations, 30 radio stations and cable stations and is #764 on the Billionaire List according to Forbes. Hodges and a black neighborhood activist pointed their fingers in a goofy pose – while, incidentally, standing next to the Head of the Minneapolis Police, Janee Harteau, who was just out of the picture. The reporter, with input from the Minneapolis police – probably John Delmonico of the Police Union – alleged they were flashing ‘gang signs.’
Now mild-mannered Betsy Hodges wouldn’t know a gang sign if someone taught it to her.
This is an occasion where social media and the as-of-now ‘free’ internet totally destroyed the narrative the billionaire, his reporter and the cops were trying to create. Nor is it the first time the internet has immediately called ‘bullshit’ on some statement or event - it is happening more and more, whether with sexist creeps in Silicon Valley or quacks like Doctor Oz. In effect, the capitalist media was not able to control the story. Harteau carefully did not join in. She is a lesbian and the first woman to be head of the police, and sees it as her job to do PR for whatever fuckups the police get into. Hiring a gay woman to helm a police department does not do away with the role of the police in a capitalist state, but you got to admire their PR skills. It is putting ‘lipstick on a pig,’ almost literally.
The last mayor of Minneapolis, a Democratic empty suit named Rybak, loved the police union. Hodges is a bit to Rybak’s left and has an Afro-American husband who was at one time a black radical. Hodges – and much commentary – agreed that this provocation by KSTP and the police was in retaliation for the City Council recently mandating that police wear television cameras during arrests. This is logical because the taxpayers of Minneapolis have for years been paying millions in out-of-court settlements over police brutality.
Which gets us back to Ferguson. The camera idea came from that situation. As Russell Brand and every reporter has noticed, riot gear is flowing into the St. Louis and Ferguson police departments since Brown was killed. The ‘Justice” Department has not made any findings, and is instead allowing these thugs to arm up. The preachers are kneeling, the Democratic Party politicians are pleading for peace. Nothing has changed except a movement has begun to form among black youth as the “Obama goggles’ have fallen off.
Police are the highest-paid group of ‘civil’ employees in almost any jurisdiction – County, City and otherwise. While everyone else gets cut, the police remain for the most part immune. Police review boards are gutted - in Minneapolis the most-left wing person on the Board, David Bicking, was removed administratively. John Delmonico’s Minneapolis police ‘union’ is feared, as it is the only ‘union’ that anyone respects – even Republicans. It has been a long time since the 1910 Boston police strike over better working conditions for cops. Unfortunately, this ‘union’ is not the same as an electrical workers union or a mechanics union. Because cops will be called out to break strikes by the latter. Because the police are an arm of the capitalist state. The naïve calls from Occupy to police that ‘you are the 99% too!’ might need a little bit of sharpening. You will find individuals or minority groups who might work with dissidents. But only that. Most police departments are dominated by a hard core of reactionaries.
Worship of the police in the U.S. is broadcast every day through unreal police procedurals on TV like 'NCIS,' 'Law & Order - SVU,' 'Blue Bloods,' 'The Mentalist,' 'Cold Case,' 'Criminal Minds.' Just as we should ‘support the troops’ we also should ‘support the cops.’ It is never noted in these shows that half of all murders are not solved and that most victims are not white or that ‘evidence’ is many times incorrect or faked. Misbehavior by police is absent – or glorified. Internal Affairs is the enemy. Cops are geniuses. The real alternative police procedurals show up every day on the internet in cell phone videos and audios of beatings, shootings or killings of relatively innocent people by cops, but that doe not find its way into TV’s fairy tales.
Here in Minneapolis the hated Rich Stanek was re-elected Sheriff of Nottingham – ah, Hennepin County, the county in and around Minneapolis. Stanek’s office evicted thousands of residents from their foreclosed homes. He helped oust Occupy from the Plaza at the Hennepin County Government Center. He cooperated with the DHS illegally arresting and detaining activists protesting the Republican Convention in 2004. He enforces the drug war to enrich his department and harass minorities, and lies about marijuana. He collaborates with ICE to deport Latino workers. The Metro Gang Strike Force, in which Hennepin County Sheriffs cooperated, was riddled with scandal and ultimately shut down. The Sheriff is key to the repressive structure in the City, which is why you have to have a CJS degree or police accreditation to run for this office, at least as I understand. No Hunter Thompson’s allowed here. Civilians are not wanted.
Will the camera idea work? Well, the report is mixed. Statistics on problems are down for departments that use them. However, sometimes the cameras are turned off at critical moments – oh accidentally! Other times even while filming – remember the homeless man that was shot in the back in Arizona by heavily armed police – it doesn’t matter.
The real problem is that police departments are not really part of the population, especially the poor, the working-class, or black, Latino and Native populations. While recruiting from the working class, they are then trained to dominate that class. It is a force over and above the population. As such no matter how much tinkering – community policing, lesbian or black police chiefs, National Night Out, cameras, review boards, DOJ investigations, diversity training – you cannot change this essential nature of the police.
At some point, the population will have to learn to police itself with armed neighborhood committees. The present police certainly need to be removed from some neighborhoods. The former is a revolutionary solution, and one that will come when the majority class can no longer tolerate the ‘blue-bloods.’
(Reviews on police issues – book review “Rise of the Warrior Cops,” TV reviews, “The Wire,” and “Meta-Meaning of Bad Cop Shows,” and commentary – “Ferguson Facts.” Us blog search box, upper left.)
November 15, 2014