Just a few facts will change everything you think you know about American police, writes Lee Camp, with pictures by Eleanor Goldfield from the streets of downtown Washington.
By Lee Camp
Special to Consortium News
With all the protests and anger and violence across the country, a justified discussion about policing has begun on our corporate media airwaves. (I would say the discussion is overdue, but in fact we’ve had it roughly every three years for the past 40 years.) However, despite all the coverage, a deeper debate sits ignored – A debate about why our American police system exists at all, how it works (or doesn’t), and where it came from.
The following 19 facts about American policing will change everything you think you know. First let’s start with the sheer amount of murder.
- Police kill roughly 1,000 Americans per year. In 2016 The Guardian found that American police murdered 1,093. That’s three lives extinguished by police every day.
- In the UK the average per year is three murders by police. Not 300. Just three. This means American police generally kill more citizens in a week than the UK will kill in a year. In 2018 Denmark & Switzerland’s police killed no one. Zero. They literally let everyone live. (You would think they would kill at least a few just to stay in practice.)
- The vast majority of those Americans killed are not “hardened” criminals (whatever that means). The Treatment Advocacy Center finds that one out of every four people killed by U.S. police was severely mentally ill. If you add in simply mentally unstable or cognitively impaired, the number is much higher. Probably well over 50 percent of the time police murder someone, the victim is not of stable and sound mind.
- Last year NBC news found that since 2005, only 35 officers had been convicted of any crime after having taken someone’s life. If we assume the U.S. averaged 900 police killings per year (a very low estimate) and that only one officer was involved in each killing (an even lower estimate), this means cops are convicted .28% of the time after killing someone. Less than one percent. But it gets worse.
- NBC reports, “Only three officers have been convicted of murder during this period [2005 to 2019] and seen their convictions stand.” That’s a rate of conviction of .024% – For all intents and purposes police officers can murder with impunity.
What Cops Do All Day
Now let’s take a moment to disabuse ourselves of the liberal fantasy of policing. The vast majority of what police do in America is not run around catching the evil-doers like an episode of CSI or Law & Order or Die Hard or Starsky & Hutch or all the other TV shows and movies ever made ever.
- Professor Alex Vitale notes in “The End of Policing” that most cops average less than one felony arrest per year – meaning almost the entirety of a police officer’s day-to-day consists of standing around and occasionally dealing with small or nothing crimes. These “crimes” such as loitering or “causing a disturbance” are designed to simply “put people in the system.” People of color are far more likely to be arrested for these types of crimes. Once “in the system,” the sentence for a future “crime of loitering” or “atrocity of playing loud music” can be much longer.
- Vitale continues, “Even detectives (who make up only about 15% of police forces) spend most of their time taking reports of crimes that they will never solve—and in many cases will never even investigate. …Most crimes that are investigated are not solved.”
- Rather than working harder to solve larger crimes, our government officials have created hundreds of smaller “crimes” for police to nail citizens for. In the past few decades there has been a surge of bans on things like sleeping in public, begging, giving away free food, “camping” in public, and sleeping in one’s car. Laws like these only serve to make homelessness (and helping the homeless) illegal and allow police to insert themselves, often upending lives. (Because people begging for change often have it too easy.)
- A study in New York City found that over half of those who cycle regularly through the prison system were homeless. Does anyone honestly believe that endlessly grabbing homeless people and charging them for nothing crimes does anything to help our society or the people involved? The fact that most officers spend their days doing this is equivalent to firefighters walking around spraying people’s cigarettes with water while the actual building fires are left to burn. (More on those in a moment.)
- When wealthy or even middle class people get caught doing most of these small crimes, they are either ignored by the police or let off with a warning. If a Wall Street trader in a suit and tie takes a nap on a bench, do the police lock him up? If a doctor or a dentist or real estate agent is “caught” sleeping in their car, are they brought down to the station? No. These so-called “crimes” serve to simply enforce the class structure and give police a reason to arrest the poor and the non-white.
- Meanwhile, the true crimes don’t even garner a glance. The largest crimes in the nation and the world are often legal, and even when they aren’t, they have nothing to do with police. Corporate executives endlessly decide to dump toxins in our water or keep a baby powder on the shelves when they know it contains asbestos or continue sales of an herbicide when they know it causes cancer or push opioids on troubled Americans even as the bodies pile up. Generally in such cases, no one will go to prison, no one will do a perp walk with handcuffs on. And in the incredibly rare moment that a top exec is locked up, it has nothing to do with your average police officers.
Designed to Create Crime
As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow has put it, “We need an effective system of crime prevention and control in our communities, but that is not what the current system is. This system is better designed to create crime, and a perpetual class of people labeled criminals.”
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- The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world. And if we slightly rephrase that, we get, “America is the largest prison state in the world.” But the mainstream media doesn’t like the sound of that, so they won’t say it.
- Police in some regards commit more crime than average citizens. Police now seize more from citizens via civil asset forfeiture than the amount of property stolen by street criminals in burglaries.
- Cops often protect inanimate objects against the unarmed citizens they have taken an oath to serve and protect. For example, in Standing Rock the law enforcement were steadfastly guarding a pipeline against the people who actually owned the land through which it stabbed and drank the water it would ultimately contaminate.
So we’ve established police are not doing the job most people think they are and that they kill a lot of innocent people while acting like military patrols on the streets of the “Land of The Free.” Now let’s get into how poorly they’re trained at actually doing the jobs they shouldn’t be doing.
- Police academies spend [on average] 110 hours on firearms and self-defense, yet only eight hours on conflict management. This means, generally speaking, police spend 12 times as many hours learning how to shoot and kill people as learning how NOT to shoot and kill people.
- In most states hair stylists are required to have far more training than police officers. Even CNN reported, “The minimum training requirement for Michigan police officers is 594 hours. To work with electrical signs, you’ll need 4,000 hours of experience.”
- Former Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis has said police departments don’t want to hire officers who are empathetic. And pro-police website Officer.com has published articles saying empathy could be dangerous for policing.
- Some cities also don’t want smart cops. In fact, a court back in 2000 upheld the right of police departments to avoid hiring intelligent officers. …So yes, in some American cities the authorities actively fill the department’s ranks with dumb people who can’t relate to your situation. That certainly sounds like the opposite of what you’d want for a job opening that includes the phrase, “Gun included.”
And finally, we must ask, “If our policing system is a draconian, military-style, Orwellian model used to consolidate an entrenched class hierarchy, then where did it come from? How did we get here?”
- As detailed in “Our Enemies in Blue,” the American police system originated from slave patrols, which turned the streets of towns into patrol routes for what was a quasi-military force. From its earliest days the American model was a racist tactic to protect the higher class people from the downtrodden and oppressed. The numbers don’t lie. The system has not largely changed since those early days.
Prof. Vitale writes, “The reality is that the police exist primarily as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and tightly managing the behaviors of poor and nonwhite people: those on the losing end of economic and political arrangements.”
These 19 facts should fully flip the script on how we view police in America. We need a completely new/different/smaller/less-violent model. And we need it starting 400 years ago.
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Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his standup comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.
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I think it’s unfair to compare other nations with the US.
1. The US has liberal gun ownership with one county requiring every household to own a weapon.
2. The military is the no.1 employee (numbers) in the US, second is Walmart
3. A huge percentage of the population have experience in weapons use and weapons can be bought in Walmart and Kmart
4. A law enforcement officer is killed every 36-48 hours in the US in the line of duty
5. 2.2 Million people had been sent to prison in 2016
6. The U.S. 911 system handles 500,000 calls daily, or about 183 million annually
7. Mental illnesses are common in the US. Nearly 1/5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness (46.6 million in 2017); with many States having limited influence if they can own a weapon.
8. In 2005, an estimated 22 million Americans struggled with a drug or alcohol problem.
Once you digest the numbers it paints a clearer picture and in every line of work, you’ll have rogues and individuals crossing the line.
Thanks Lee. Working class folks should know that police as a societal institution appeared with private property. No private property, no private ownership, no need to protect private interests. If workers really want to get rid of the cops, we gotta get rid of capitalism and build socialism.
“The second distinguishing characteristic is the institution of a public force which is no longer immediately identical with the people’s own organization of themselves as an armed power. This special public force is needed because a self-acting armed organization of the people has become impossible since their cleavage into classes. The slaves also belong to the population: as against the 365,000 slaves, the 90,000 Athenian citizens constitute only a privileged class. The people’s army of the Athenian democracy confronted the slaves as an aristocratic public force, and kept them in check; but to keep the citizens in check as well, a police-force was needed, as described above. This public force exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men, but also of material appendages, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds, of which gentile society knew nothing. It may be very insignificant, practically negligible, in societies with still undeveloped class antagonisms and living in remote areas, as at times and in places in the United States of America. But it becomes stronger in proportion as the class antagonisms within the state become sharper and as adjoining states grow larger and more populous. It is enough to look at Europe today, where class struggle and rivalry in conquest have brought the public power to a pitch that it threatens to devour the whole of society and even the state itself.” Frederick Engels, Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State – IX. Barbarism and Civilization
Lee is an outstanding entertainer, but his political commentary is on a par with any of the name journalist of the hayday of mainstream Network TV. He doesn’t wear the Brooks Brothers suit but he’s brilliant by every other standard in journalism.
Keep up the great work, Lee!
Very few police actually live in the communities they serve. They greatly fear ‘criminals’ finding out where they reside and ‘punishing’ them for their work. There us a massive ‘bunker mentality’ among police. That is officially institutionalized by making police facilities non-user friendly to ordinary citizens, with notable ”security systems’ that isolate and depersonalize (badge number no names) police and the people they serve.
Most crime in the U.S. is white collar crime. After 9/11, the Bush administration transferred the agents investigating these crimes into anti-terrorism work without replacing them. This was followed by a white collar crime wave.
It is easy to write articles and call yourself a journalist. But is very difficult to come up with viable solutions corresponding to the times we live in. Otherwise, everything is water under the bridge. I heard the same song for the last 50 years. Show me something that works.
One person didn’t come up with this police system; it was built over many years. So why should one person come up with the alternative? And how would that be fair?
Journalism is supposed to be about providing information. Ideally, that information is verifiable facts, as this particular article is. Opinions are often included, but one of the points somewhat indirectly made here is that most people are too easily swayed by opinions because they’re too lazy or idiotic to bother checking facts. Political statements that often include *apparent* facts will often include only limited facts, plenty of pure fiction too, but the sort of POLITICAL OPINION the general public can often quite easily form on their own often involves some rather simple/easy fact checking.
SOLUTIONS aren’t generally something a journalist should suggest or propose. That’s what politicians do, and it’s a key part of how they get elected. A key part of the problem with it is that politicians frequently have little to no idea what’s actually involved in bringing those solutions to reality. They generally are either not capable, have no intent of actually following through, or there are simply too many people who are easily manipulated into working against the solutions.
A journalist’s job is to present and highlight facts that the general public are often not aware of. The more people are aware of such information, the more capable THEY are of communicating with EACH OTHER to decide what solutions have a chance of working and which they want.
Let me clue you in on something most of the country is blissfully unaware of. In 1995-96, back when most people with internet access only had it at home or.work, rather than right in their pockets, CNN was often a primary source of rapid information from around the world, all condensed into the key chunks and bits that THEY wanted to provide, and with THEIR choice of timing. The part that people are generally unaware of is that 18th airborne corps command (basically the top for all of fort bragg, which means the entirety of 82nd airborne division, 3rd special forces group, and tons of smaller but relevant units) was getting a substantial portion of relevant tactical information via me and my little team making sure the generals et al had the ability to watch cnn at any time of day or night.
There were a LOT of situations where key military decisions were being made based on information coming from cnn. They were often putting that information out there many HOURS or even DAYS before it could be verified through military sources and firsthand observations. I was right the hell there for a wide variety of relatively small tactical decisions being made because of that information, and i also had access to several YEARS of logs that included plenty of specific details of incoming information from cnn and other civillian sources that were key parts of the decision making process going at least as far back as 1990, and often played a crucial/key role in the first gulf war.
By the time i enlisted, and relevant to my job and security clearance, there was enough documentation on how just the mainstream media frequently played a key role in some rather serious and substantial tactical decisions. There was plenty of other information, but it was damned obvious that quite a few key command decisions had been made based primarily on information from cnn alone. Verification of some seemingly major details was often quite weak. Quite a few things were completely WRONG and resulted in the wrong responses. Many decisions were made because of civillian ‘misinterpretations’ of observations and rumors, but then the army and air force pushed forward even harder and created justifications for it later just to protect careers, rather than people.
Today, it’s substantially different, though far from perfect. Such sources of info will still get the military zooming into action a bit, but it’s more often about simply being *on the way* to press this or that button. Back in the 90s, bombs were being dropped because of what this or that general had seen on tv just hours earlier. Sometimes on innocent civillians, other times on places where there hadn’t been a human being in months. That sort of thing showed up in the after-action reports and often included weeks of follow-up attempts to find relevant intel.
You’re asking a journalist to verify information. That’s quite a bit better than what the army was doing in 1996. It’s still a similar problem because YOU can verify the majority of it YOURSELF and possibly also acquire key details that might be important to you.
My point is that information has been provided and can fairly easily be verified from a variety of sources. I first read this article on facebook, posted by a friend, so i went through the enormous trouble of finding this page to fully read it myself. I’ll never get those precious seconds of my life back. If he proposes solutions here, some might make it to other places, but most of the feedback to those ideas is likely to be spread out all over the internet and in conversations in break rooms at work etc, not here. That’s a very GOOD aspect of the process because it means those ideas are spreading far and wide in a variety of ways and can lead to a much wider variety of not only possible solutions, but also action upon those solutions. A lot of the best solutions are likely to come from those conversations in which the people might not even have a clue about this particular site.
If a journalist includes his ideas of solutions to some very complex problems as part of an article that’s intended to be informational and for the purpose of MANY minds to work on solutions, he has basically become a politician. If you’re actually interested in solutions, it’s pretty easy to post a link to this on your facebook or other page and have the converasation there with an audience and participants who will widen the field and possibly come up with more solution ideas than what should be expected from one person who’s simply reporting information. Maybe he’ll do that in the comments, but they might not belong in the article.itself, maybe not on this site at all.
I think you are right. It is good to be informed, but what are we doing with these informations? Mostly only winding us up. It makes more sense to lighten a candle instead of moaning about the darkness….
Thanks CN for giving Lee a new home
So many things to agree with. We are a violent society and the police are given the thankless and futile task of addressing the violence. Their sometimes excessively violent responses are a consequence. Social norms like respect for others, including such trivial (are they?) acts as playing music too loud or littering the streets have eroded. We seem to have a whole class of facilitators in this regard, who are silent about such anti-social behavior and even defend those who commit anti-social acts because the perpetrators are victims and unless we address this victimization, whatever it means, we are the problem.
Europeans and their progeny have a sorry history when it comes to their treatment of non-Europeans. But using that to justify or excuse anti-social behavior in this place at this time is not useful and really counter-productive. In many ways, Americans have moved in the right direction in correcting abuses and today, if we consider treatment within social classes, it works pretty well.
So for Mister Floyd, his death was tragic and the actions of the police on the scene was wrong, most likely illegal. But the radical and nihilistic use of his death to inflame and confuse people is worse. For politicians and pundits, socialized to react in a knee jerk and simplistic way, i.e. that the problem is racism does not move us forward to create an even better society. Instead it polarizes people, many offended by being called racist because they don’t buy into the narrative and condone the behavior we are witnessing today.
Seeing all those confused young men and women committing mayhem convinced in the righteousness of their acts paints a sorry picture. Too many of our elite are not serving them well.
The “mayhem” we are witnessing is the direct result of the looting that has been perpetrated on us by the elite in this country since its birth. It was inevitable.
Why does any harmful practice or product exist at all? Profit. Someone is benefiting by creating the conditions that inspire protests in the streets. Clinton ramped up the privatization of the military and now today we have more mercenary divisions than actual army. Crowd control gear is tested on Palestinians and sold abroad, as ex-IDF Eran Efrati revealed in his lecture circuit that I recommend you check out on YT.
Also, if you want to get an idea of the mindset of one of LA’s police union attorneys, go to Jimmy Dore’s YT channel, just posted today.
The IDF is training our police forces. That should be high on this list.
The IDF has been training our police forces to regard civilians as the enemy, and protesters as fair game.
Right, guess Lee conveniently left out that main fact.
Some people took some stuff out of Target without paying for it. Probably worth less that a 100 bucks.
The CEO of Target took $26.1 million out of Target in one year.
Guess who gets charged with “looting”?
I have a dim view on that. First of all, if you are “probably” under 100 bucks of loot, this is a sign of a “depraved heart”. Secondly, people working at my local Target are very nice. Once I had a bicycle mishap, less that 2 miles from our Target, so a bit time later I arrived at the store in somewhat torn and dirty apparel, and bleeding a bit. First I got proper stuff in the pharmacy section, then in the 1-person bathroom with “changing station” I took my time to disinfect my abraded skin and apply gauze and tape, then I replaced my shorts and long-sleeved T-shirt, while the staff was very caring and helpful. I suspect that brazen shoplifting may decrease comity between customers and staff, plus, the store losses impact income of people who do not take much.
Sometime you could “forget” a tiny item in the shopping cart and get away with a freebie. Like a transparent ruler — it is barely visible!
The problem is that corporate looting is invisible while street looting is personal. Plutocracy’s main goal is to keep us fighting each other while they rob us all blind. And the public seems to fall for it every time. Until now?
FOP – the culture within police departments are encouraged and supported by the FOP. Isn’t it curious that at a time when every other union in America is threatened or in decline, the FOP reigns with impunity. When’s the last time any city’s FOP suggested an officer should go to jail for a crime?
“In the UK the average per year is three murders by police. Not 300. Just three. This means American police generally kill more citizens in a week than the UK will kill in a year.”
Huhhh?? This should read, ‘American police generally kill more citizens in a DAY than the UK will kill in a year’.
I was thinking that exact thing when I read it. It’s daily not weekly.
I think your math is right. Although, if it were converted to a per capita basis, considering the US has about ten times the population of the UK, it would be more like a week.
There’s a great deal of jumping on the band wagon in this article and in some of the responses. I do not support the unnecessary violence of the police, and certainly in the death of George Floyd. However Mr. Lee Camp and Professor Vitale speak a lot for having any actual on the street experience being in a policeman’s shoes. It is an impossibility to have “only the best” in police work, teaching, doctors, and anything else. What we have in this article is some extreme left views which are just as unacceptable as any extreme right wing views. I wonder just how long professor Vitale and Mr. Camp would survive in an average classroom? Some research will show that numerically more white people are shot by police than black people; while percentage wise of population, there are more black persons shot. Regardless of color, most Americans are content to live with integration and do not support racism. Professor Vitale’s article is just another whipped up article to draw attention to him. Do I support integration and equal opportunity? Yes. Are a lot of the protesters, regardless of color, just raising hell? Yes. Do I support police brutality? No. Take away police protection? No. “Who ya gonna call, GhostBusters?”
“These 19 facts should fully flip the script on how we view police in America. We need a completely new/different/smaller/less-violent model. And we need it starting 400 years ago. “
Well Lee, unless you ,personally, can come up with some quick constructive answers and solutions to your policing problem it’s not going to change anytime soon. Your system of ever increasing military style policing is now so entrenched it is essentially impossible to overturn. The political will of both your major parties just isn’t there. There is too much vested interest in keeping the status quo both economically and politically.
I’m a retired policeman with 32 yrs. service in both London England and the Greater Toronto area in Ontario Canada.
The origins of modern policing in both of these countries comes from the necessity of protecting the property of the wealthy and middle classes. Sir Robert Peel in 1829 formally organized the London Metropolitan Police ostensibly to protect protect property and persons from those classes, against a vagrant underclass mostly ex-soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars. That model ,and it’s mandate, hasn’t really changed in almost 200 years. It’s just become more mobilized and an established part of “civilized” society.
The new “vagrants” are your current underclass of homeless, guess what, veterans of imperialistic wars, and economic outcasts of your society, OF ALL COLOURS. Here in Canada we’re far from smug about our similar problems. We’re just mostly happy that we don’t have the irrational division that seems to plague the “dialogue “ in your country. Mostly I wish we weren’t so closely tied to you geographically,economically and culturally. As certain elements in our society tend to mirror and mimic your experiences to the detriment of our common good. Sorry to say. In just a fact.
Finally Lee, good luck with your struggles. You’re a vastly under appreciated “comedian “ that needs far more exposure to a national audience. Love you on RT.
Looking at US policing from a UK perspective, one is struck by the fragmentation of the structure, which encourages each police authority to set its own standards and make its own rules. Each police authority negotiates pay and conditions with police unions, and these deals include immunity provisions which restrict or even prevent investigation of police wrongdoing. Such provisions are unknown in any European jurisdiction as far as I am aware.
I accept most of your observations, but consider this. The US is one of the most violent countries in the world, and I’m not just referring to acts of police. Check it out. First, we must solve this problem before disarming or getting rid of police.
Do you not think that the violence above them begets the violence “below”? People have no rights to jobs, to healthcare,to decent education, to homes yet are supposed to be “good citizens” who are however always assumed to be guilty of some crime. The reasons for arrest are often nonsensical, as in the George Floyd case-“suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 note” while trillions are given by the government to big failing corporations. Military weapons and vehicles are given to local police (many thousands of different groups all over the country, with a lot of internal independence as to their rules, but with plenty of impunity from prosecution) and we see the example from the federal sphere of how the USA treats people in other lands, so the actions of police are not surprising.
Blaming “the people”,like blaming them for who they elect, is not very productive.
There is a child in an abusive home. She lashes out with violence and other anti-social behaviors. When looking into her living situation, we find out that both parents emotionally and physically abuse the child regularly to an extreme extent. They demand her to provide them with money, and when she can’t, they berate her and beat her and lock her inside a closet for long lengths of time. Not only this, but the parents are being offered rewards and tools for the further abuse of that child.
Is the solution to this situation correcting the child’s behavior, so the parents don’t need to abuse her any more? Or is the solution stopping the parental abuse and getting the child away from that situation?
I apologize for making an error. It is Mr. Lee Camp who is responsible for this article and quotes Professor Vitale extensively. Perhaps it is also Mr. Camp who should become a policeman and also try to teach in the average classroom.
He knows so much, Professor Vitale should be a cop and show us how to police; how to deal with someone with a gun, someone high on drugs, someone mentally ill. Better yet, put him in an average American public school with average American kids and see if he can even survive that. And what we have here is an extreme left view which is just as unacceptable as an extreme right view. Some research will show that numerically white people are shot by police than other races. Percentage/population wise, there are more black people shot. Regardless of color, most Americans are content to live peacefully with one another and do not support racism. Professor Vitale’s article is just another whipped up article to draw attention to him.
Do I support integration and equal opportunity, yes. Are a lot of the protesters, regardless of color, just raising hell? Yes. Do I support police brutality? No. Take away police protection? No. “Who ya gonna call, GhostBusters?”
You seem to like that phrase, who ya gonna call…
I’m 70 years old and in all that time I’ve called a cop twice. Somebody stole my car out of my car port. I reported it but it was my neighbor who found it about two days later. Somebody broke into my house and stole some stuff. I reported it to the police but did the cops arrest anyone for it? No. Did I get any of my stuff back? No. Remind me again, what is this so-called “police protection” of which you speak?
I found some guy out cold in a lawn about four houses down in mid December. I called the fire department.
First of all, I’d like to point out that “most Americans” not supporting racism does not negate the fact that racism is baked into the foundations of society over here. Being “content to live peacefully’ does not erase that fact. Additionally, while you’re correct about there numerically being more white people shot by police than any other race, I’d like to point out that our prison populations VERY starkly reflect the kind of racism that we’re talking about here. Pulling from a Wikipedia article:
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2013 black males accounted for 37% of the total male prison population, white males 32%, and Hispanic males 22%.”
(And here’s the source if you’re interested in further educating yourself: see:
With all of that said, I’d like to pick apart the other big point you seem to be trying to drive home.
“… should be a cop and show us how to police; how to deal with someone with a gun, someone high on drugs, someone mentally ill.”
That bit? Yeah. Generally, the point is that the police don’t know how to deal with any of that either.
As stated in the article, they’re barely trained in de-escalation; so they’re not gonna do much better at dealing with someone who’s armed than any one else, shy of just… y’know, shooting them. Which is a problem, because violence becomes the first resort. That isn’t “protecting.”
As for the other two things, police- again- are not trained to recognize or UNDERSTAND those situations. Hell, there’s been instances where police have been called in to deal with a mental health crisis- not even a CRIME, mind you, or a situation where the person in question was a danger to anyone but themselves- and have gotten murdered by them. And people with mental illnesses are FAR more likely to be killed by police than those without. (More source-y goodness:
Long story short, if your big zinger is that the people who wrote this article don’t know how to handle these situations… that kind of falls through when statistics very clearly illustrate that the police themselves sure as hell don’t either.
Would like to add to Jeff Harrison speaking on “who you gonna call”? I lived for years in the Hollywood Hills in the same neighborhood as William Bratton when he was LAPD chief. Any day when I was out in front of my house and he happened to be driving by (chauffeured) in a town car) he’d wave to me and I’d wave back. We didn’t know each other, maybe he recognized me as an actor, or maybe he was just attempting to be friendly. I’ll likely never know. But,,, one day my house was Burglarized in the middle of the day, and it was probably the first time In my life I’d called the cops (once more after). Detectives showed up at my home, checked it out, wrote notes, took some pics etc. I asked the senior detective if he thought they’d catch the person. He said “To be honest, not a chance”. I asked why he was so certain. He went on to explain about a burglary crew that was regularly hitting houses all over the Hollywood Hills, a crew that used decoy vehicles among other somewhat sophisticated techniques. He excused himself and sure enough the crime was never solved. My next door neighbor, Chad Smith of the ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ had his Harley stolen out of his car port. He moved away, fed up with it. Right around that time William Bratton had his house Burgled, the standing chief of the LAPD. I remember hearing the burglars nabbed an extremely valuable violin he had (Stratavarius?), and to my knowledge they were never caught. So for anyone who believes in the fantasy that the cops will be there for you when you need them, consider this, among myriad other examples people could tell you if they only had your ear. All the best
The moment i saw Lee Camp started working for Consortium News a while ago, i unsubscribed, and his new article proves me right.
Lee Camp uses the whole gamut of bad journalism practices in this article: hyperbole, out of context, baseless insinuations and blank statements, misusing questionable statistic number to make misleading claims by not taking into account several significant variables.
Yes there is a problem with the police in America, but a problem can never be solved without understanding it well, and radical positions like Mr.Camp or the charlatan professor Vitale, will only make things worse by misleading and misinforming the public.
America is not Europe Mr.Camp, in Europe people dont worship guns and go about shooting each other on a daily basis. In Europe police doesnt have to deal with armed wackos every day.
One easy thing to do, would be for the police forces in all US to stop working for a day.
Robberies? Rapes? Shootings? Murders? Drug Deals? Aww sorry citizens, but the oh so bad police is depressed, we are curled under our blankets crying and popping pills right now. Call back tomorrow.
Of course according to Mr. Camp and charlatan professor Vitale, everything should go smooth, because police doesnt do anything the whole day anyways.
All this obsessing over race is intentional, it serves the purpose to distract from the real thing that makes a difference, namely social class. A rich person in a cozy neighborhood, black or white, will be treated much better by the police than a poor person, black or white, in a poor neighborhood.
One more thing, refusing to show your id and arguing with a cop, will get you handcuffed and/or tased, regardless of your skin color.
We are glad that even though you unsubscribed you are still reading Consortium News. Does anyone like or agree with every article in any publication? How does what Lee writes have any bearing on the hundreds of other articles we publish? I think liberal readers of the The New York Times still buy the paper even though it has conservative columnists, for instance. Your last line seems to contradict your comment. Isn’t there something troubling about being arrested or tasered for merely arguing with another person? Isn’t that an extreme imbalance in power that does not serve the community, which is what police are supposed to do?
“America is not Europe Mr.Camp, in Europe people dont worship guns and go about shooting each other on a daily basis. In Europe police doesnt have to deal with armed wackos every day.”
AHA! Again we go blaming the “people”. The USA claims to be the “land of the free” yet is one of the most unequal lands in the world, and is getting more so every day. Now it is the USA which is full of bad people, (but only the poor, the black, the young unemployed, the drug dealers -of course not the Sackler family or Bill Gates with his universal microchip and vaccines at birth-the homeless, the jaywalkers, the petty thieves) not the banksters, the bosses insisting on their employees working in dangerous conditions, the Congress members passing laws concocted by lobbyists for corporations. Kaboro can find his prejudices in most US MSM. Luckily he at least has access to CN, and even Lee Camp!!!
I’m well into my 60’s now and I used to work for criminal defense attorneys as a private investigator. We had these same things occur in the 80’s and we were going to change it then. Guess what? To say it is about time is an understatement so large as to defy definition. When the government kills its citizens there is no government. It is Fascist by definition. And by and large this has been the state of law enforcement forever. It is primarily because law enforcement itself has insisted on nonstatutory immunity through illegal and secret agreement with local prosecutors. Our officers will say what you need to get a conviction if you don’t prosecute them for beating up suspects. I’ve worked in multiple states and jurisdictions and this has always been the unwritten rule i encountered, especially in the smaller, less populated jurisdictions. Local police tend to be a law unto themselves in agreement with local prosecutors. That is why this happened. Why it has always happened and will continue to happen unless we hold the lawyers who run the system accountable. It is they who can hold the police to answer by not prosecuting their illegal arrests and brutality cases. When that happens the police will change. Also the state Attorney’s General need to prosecute cops. Local prosecutors cannot effectively do this because of the relationship with local police. They are effectively partners. It can change but it will take real work, not words.
Even if suspects are not killed, the likelihood of “justice” in a court is variable. Few countries use the “plea bargain” system largely accepted in the USA, where many people feel forced to accept pleading guilty to lesser versions of an alleged crime, for fear of getting condemned for a crime they have not committed. Most “crimes” never get to a court for the same reason, and the stealing of cars and contents by police stopping motorists is very widespread as well. None of this means that Americans are somehow endowed with more evil than other humans!!!
You should read about “qualified immunity” and what cops and other officials can get away with it through the doctrine introduced by Supreme court in 60-ties and expanded in scope through many rulings. Congress could codify qualified immunity away, except that most of them, like most of SCOTUS (only Sotomayor and Thomas were cited as outliers) succumbed to what I would call “extreme statism”. Fascism is actually more hierarchical and orderly. American statism gives something similar to Führerprinzip, no second-guessing of the Leader of the state, except that no policeman, prosecutor etc. can be second-guessed except for some whimsical exceptions.
Otherwise they would lack the nerve to do “everything that may be needed” to defend the citizens and other inhabitants against monsters, super-predators etc. They could be soft on crime. They would fail to “control the scene” whenever it may be needed. Etc. etc. And vast majority of mishandled folks fit the description from “I have a little list” in Mikado:
There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with ’em flat —
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that —
And all third persons who on spoiling tête-á-têtes insist —
They’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed!
He’s got ’em on the list — he’s got ’em on the list;
And they’ll none of ’em be missed — they’ll none of ’em be missed
“Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime” – Lavrentiy Beria, head of Joseph Stalin’s secret police
Apparently elections are not the only thing the Russians have influence over in this country.
Don’t conflate the Soviets of Stalin with the Russians of today. (“Russiagate” has been thoroughly discredited.) But to paraphrase Stalin, “Show me any US president in my lifetime, and I’ll show you the crime.” Our police are criminal because our leadership is criminal.
Of course police misconduct is a significant factor in reviving US awareness and ability for direct action.
It is not the primary issue in itself, even for those concerned primarily with its immediate causes and effects.
It is rightwing judges who set the standard of repression by approving police murders to keep the poor in line.
The DemRep party of the rich owns the politicians, making corruption the standard of judge selection and promotion.
Politicians of the rich sell out to support corrupt wars of the rich in the Mideast, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
They sell out to cheat everyone in every activity for political “donation” bribes, and simply deprecate their victims.
Just listen to them converse to see that their credo is “Virtue=money, got by lying, cheating, stealing, and bullying; poverty=losers who deserve to suffer; liberty and justice for gangsters; our sacred four freedoms are freedom of ignorance, selfishness, hypocrisy, and malice; exterminate the unfortunate with the rationale of overpopulation.”
That really is the belief system of the rich and their middle class opportunists, and protests have no effect on that.
Whether any coming protests develop enough direct action to affect this will decide whether any reform results.
Most of the angry will go back home, feeling good that they did something, and do nothing more.
Only organizers will determine whether effective action is taken against the rich, corrupt officials, and mass media.
They must infiltrate secret agencies, police, national guard, and military to deny force to the corrupt powers.
History suggests that raids must begin to take out corrupt politicians, rich communities, and MSM facilities.
But they must have a political and diplomatic wing to negotiate a new Constitution to restore democracy.
Judgements against crooked cops should be made against the departments & cops themselves. The individual cop and the police departments should be paying them out of their salaries, pensions and department budgets. This seems like a quick & fair way to reduce the money they have on hand to abuse citizens and would incentivize normal behavior.
This is exactly what never happens, and many accused, even convicted bad cops” can easily get another police job in a different part of the country.
Most of the killings are taking place in large city police forces but you paint a picture of small county sheriff departments. I agree that police (not just in the USA) spend an inordinate amount of time on things like shop theft and tresspassing – they don’t police the monied class except when someone higher up the totem pole pulls strings. But in addition to what you have said, militarisation is the key disfunction here. So many recruits are veterans and they carry their ethos with them. They like guns. They like well defined enemies. Everywhere, there is a failure to rein in this war culture – so what do you expect?
I would go further. Like, for instance, the three officers present during the intentional killing of George Floyd should have immediately been charged with failing to assist someone in danger, a charge that would have been leveled against a civilian. It is important to remember that for every murderous cop, there are several more who coordinate stories and cover up for the crimes of the former.
Why are there no investigations immediately into previous partners of killer cops and previous incidents they may have witnessed? The blue-shirted gangs practice Omertà as effectively as the Mafia, each one either shuts up and is part of the gang or they are disciplined or eventually are eliminated from the force. Those whose silence protects the bad actors need to be put on notice that their unwillingness to self-police the police will bring justice upon them as well.
Yes, and there’s still more.
Many departments are heavily militarized. The Pentagon has a regular program for distributing unneeded military supplies to local police. Some departments can put on a display similar to that of small militaries in the world, complete with armored vehicles, machine guns, helicopters, and drones.
The attitudes of military thinking come with that equipment supply and use, as well as from the nature of training and recruiting (mentioned below), and they are not attitudes to be encouraged in a civilian force.
Men leaving the military after their term often become police officers. America has a very large military, so there is a constant flow of police recruits. Of course, the record of the American military abroad in its many brutal colonial wars – as, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, etc. – is not one of civilian-oriented restraint or caution. It is one of “shoot first, ask questions later.”
As a recent trend, many local American police forces receive some training in Israel. Since Israel occupies a large population who are not citizens and have no rights, it is a very questionable practice to send civilian police there for training if your intention is just fair and capable law enforcement by American police. Israel earns a good flow of funds from these contracts.
Americans are supposed to have inalienable rights via the Bill of Rights, but there is no such thing in Israel and no rights at all for Palestinians. The two realities should be world’s apart in training.
America’s prisons are notoriously violent places where prisoners can die mysteriously. One study a while back counted 800 such deaths in a year.
Solitary confinement, virtually a form of torture, is widely practiced in America. And the country has a set of hideous institutions called “Super-max prisons” where the conditions are very severe and frightening.
A number of American states contract-out running prisons to private companies to save money, and you can imagine the quality of staff and supervision when saving money is the goal.
America has the largest number of incarcerated people in the world.
Compared to their share of population, heavily disproportionate numbers of blacks are incarcerated in America. I am not arguing about the fairness of their charges or sentences, of which I know nothing, but given America’s endemic and intense racism, you can imagine the harshness for many prisoners. Prison guards, of course, do not tend to come from an educated or refined pool of people.
Training for prison guards is often poor, as it very much is for police in America’s huge number of towns incorporated out of suburban sprawl, a distinctly American phenomenon.
And not to forget (as fact number 20 or perhaps 1 in the list), the USA police are trained by police/military police from the apartheid state of israel – which has made shooting children, women and civilians it signature call.
John R., I have trouble with “white privilege”, maybe because I live in a poor predominately white state where the majority have seen little of this privilege. What I have seen is the harassment and abandonment of the poor. Here poor people on a joy ride are hunted down, cornered by rabid dog police and shot to death, for speeding while poor and drunk, and speeding towards their home at that. Poor people lined up in the welfare office, poor coal miners losing their retirement and healthcare, and their lives to resurgent black lung disease. Poor homeless scavenging the alleyways. I would substitute “class privilege” for white.
Many police departments have the slogan: ” To Protect And Serve. ” I don’t suppose that applies to most of We The People though.
It’s also often in quotes (as you aptly wrote), so I guess that gets them off the hook.
Yes, you beat me to it. We send our police to be trained by Israel – the entity that illegally occupies Palestine, and terrorizes, mains and kills Palestinians, including children and women, with impunity.
Our small town police locally have changed it from “to protect and serve” to “Compliance” writ large on the side of their patrol cars.
They ‘protect and serve’ the rich and powerful… from any possibility of a peasants’ revolt.
Good piece Lee, thanks. White Americans need to wake up to the systemic injustices of racism and to their own white privilege.
One of the best statements I’ve come across about why black men are still being killed regularly without change – “Until people that are not black are as outraged as we are, nothing will change.” Duane Wade (former NBA basketballer).
Let’s stand strong with our black brothers and sisters and demand change – today is way past that time – we need to stand together going forward. Murder charges for all four officers that participated in the killing and all similar instances that may occur down the line. Show us what change looks like. Enough already !
In addition, media is pulling the strings for the wealthy by framing and promoting the stories in order to continue this same divide among “We the People” (the 90% who are not billionaires). 2-3 minutes of research shows that substantially more whites are killed by police. The public is fed select narrative filtered to deflect from the wealthy, their political agenda/crimes/corruption and LIES on endless public-funded bankroll.
There is no race war, only us and them. Don’t buy or sell the same old garbage.
The government, justice system and the officers who enforce it are paid employees of ALL American tax payers.
Decades of peaceful protests have not changed anything. Civil unrest may have been just the thing… IF the anger and destruction were aimed at the Capitals, Civic Center, Town Hall, Justice Center, Police Stations, Governors homes Senators airplanes, IRS Buildings, CIA, Pentagon…
“Protesting” the mall and looting business only proves to fall right in line with the system we know.
Divide among the people, now, pre-set for the next generation. Thoughtless RIOTS and names of actual victims become associated, forever etched into history, without change.
Well done, Lee! Thank you, V/R, Kearnsey