Myths and truth about police violence, & why change is coming

Summary: The surge of stories about our out-of-control police deserves attention for what it reveals more us. Everybody has problems. Success results from our ability rapidly and effectively see and respond to them. America used to do both well (as Hitler and Tojo learned). Modern America does neither well.  But change is coming, unexpectedly forced by minds cool and unsympathetic.  {2nd of 2 stories today.}

Police then and now


  1. The Police crushed; crime soars!
  2. Real news: more police shootings.
  3. Real news: police are almost always acquitted.
  4. The voices that will force change.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  The Police crushed; crime soars!

From the formerly great paper become a Rupert Murdoch rag, The Wall Street Journal: “The New Nationwide Crime Wave” by Heather Mac Donald — Excerpt…

This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Mr. Dotson reported. Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.

Similar “Ferguson effects” are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56% in May compared with 2014.

“Any cop who uses his gun now has to worry about being indicted and losing his job and family,” a New York City officer tells me. “Everything has the potential to be recorded. A lot of cops feel that the climate for the next couple of years is going to be nonstop protests.”

Police officers now second-guess themselves about the use of force. “Officers are trying to invent techniques on the spot for taking down resistant suspects that don’t look as bad as the techniques taught in the academy,” says Jim Dudley, who recently retired as deputy police chief in San Francisco. Officers complain that civilians don’t understand how hard it is to control someone resisting arrest.

Lethal Weapons
Lethal Weapons“, The Economist, 23 August 2014.

(2)  Real news: more police shootings in 2015

Despite the WSJ’s propaganda, it appears more likely that the police are suffering a collapse of legitimacy in the underclass. Videos of unnecessary police shootings. Videos of unnecessary police beatings and tasing. Videos of police macing peaceful protestors. Videos proving police perjury. There’s not enough police to rule by fear, so they’ve elected to rule by force. Rising crime rates this year show the failure of this policy in an age of widespread cameras.

Anyone who cares to see why their legitimacy has collapsed. “Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide” by Kimberly Kindy at the Washington Post — Excerpt…

The three are among at least 385 people shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete. … 16% were either carrying a toy or were unarmed.

… Ninety-two victims — nearly a quarter of those killed — were identified by police or family members as mentally ill. In Miami Gardens, Fla., Catherine Daniels called 911 when she couldn’t persuade her son, Lavall Hall, a 25-year-old black man, to come in out of the cold early one morning in February. A diagnosed schizophrenic who stood 5-foot-4 and weighed barely 120 pounds, Hall was wearing boxer shorts and an undershirt and waving a broomstick when police arrived. They tried to stun him with a Taser gun and then shot him.

… About half of the time, police were responding to people seeking help with domestic disturbances and other complex social situations: A homeless person behaving erratically. A boyfriend threatening violence. A son trying to kill himself.

… Nicholas T. Thomas, a 23-year-old black man, was killed in March when police in Smyrna, Ga., tried to serve him with a warrant for failing to pay $170 in felony probation fees. Thomas fled the Goodyear tire shop where he worked as a mechanic, and police shot into his car.

… Police are authorized to use deadly force only when they fear for their lives or the lives of others. So far, just three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime — less than 1%.

The low rate mirrors the findings of a Post investigation in April that found that of thousands of fatal police shootings over the past decade, over the past decade, only 54 had produced criminal ­charges. Typically, those cases involved layers of damning evidence challenging the officer’s account. Of the cases resolved, most officers were cleared or acquitted. In all three 2015 cases in which charges were filed, videos emerged showing the officers shooting a suspect during or after a foot chase …

Washington Post: weapon held by people killed by police
Got to love classing “car” as a lethal weapon justifying immediate execution by police.

(3)  Real news: police are almost always acquitted

Juries and judges seldom find police officers guilty on the rare occasions when District Attorneys prosecute them for shooting people, as in this “acquittal of a Cleveland police officer involved in a 2012 shootout” reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was not a “shootout” in the usual sense. Thirteen officers fired 137 bullets at the stopped car containing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams — who were unarmed. Michael Brelo fired 49 times, concluding by jumping onto the Malibu’s hood and shot straight down at Russell and Williams. Brelo is white; Russell and Williams were black. Brelo’s attorney congratulated Judge O’Donnell afterward for “the outstanding display of judicial decision-making that you’ve all witnessed in the case.”

The judge said that while he had concluded Brelo fired lethal shots at Russell and Williams, other officers did, too. He found that it was impossible to know whose shots were responsible for the deaths. O’Donnell also accepted Brelo’s defense – that he fired the shots because he feared for his life.

Even internal discipline is rare, with stories like these the usual result: “Arbitrator rescinds discipline for four supervisors in deadly police chase“, following Brelo’s acquittal.

An arbitrator rescinded discipline against four Cleveland police supervisors on Friday … {the 3} Cleveland police sergeants … all will receive back pay from their 2013 suspensions, according to Cleveland police supervisors’ union president Capt. Brian Betley.

…Arbitrator Nels Nelson determined in June that the city improperly fired Sgt. Michael Donegan, and demoted Capt. Ulrich Zouhar and Lt. Paul Wilson.Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Russo in January upheld Nelson’s ruling that Donegan should be rehired as a patrol officer, receive back pay and returned to the rank of sergeant. The arbitrator also ruled Zouhar be returned to the rank of captain, and Wilson to be returned to the rank of lieutenant.

"Change" signal

(4)  The voices that will force change

There is a grim conclusion to this, as with many of these stories: “The city reached a $3 million settlement split between Williams and Russell families and their attorneys.” Nick Wing at the Huffington Post documents the hundreds of millions paid by our cities for these shootings: “We Pay A Shocking Amount For Police Misconduct, And Cops Want Us Just To Accept It“.

I suspect that our city leaders did not realize what this police misconduct was costing them. While they obviously believe that Black lives don’t matter, money does. The police are impervious to the opinions of the underclass, but we might see how quickly they respond to the decisions of our ruling elites.

(5)  For More Information

Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop“ by Chase Madar at The Nation, 24 November 2014 — “It’s not just Ferguson—here’s how the system protects police.”

For deeper understanding of these things I recommend Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (2014) and John T. Whitehead’s A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (2013). Also see The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010) by legal scholar Michelle Alexander.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the police, especially these…

  1. Do not talk to the police (important advice in New America).
  2. Police grow more powerful; the Republic slides another step into darkness. Can cellphone cameras save us?
  3. Shootings by police show their evolution into “security services”; bad news for the Republic.
  4. News good & bad about the fantastic growth of America’s security services.
  5. We can’t fix police violence because we don’t know the cause.
  6. No need for police reform, since only criminals have trouble with police!



14 thoughts on “Myths and truth about police violence, & why change is coming”

  1. ~ Our good, brave, honest police officers and agents with integrity deserve not only better training and standards, but leaders that lead by good example in their agencies for their officers to follow. It is up to the management to weed out the bad apples and when one of their own breaks the law or their own code of conduct or ethics, or even a mistake, it is their superiors that have to take responsibility and hold them accountable. The lives of all law enforcement officers are in their care. As are the lives of the public. People want the Truth.

    ~ Bad cops lie, falsify reports, plant evidence, use excessive force, flat out lie under oath in a court of law. And never even blink.

    ~ And good ones sometimes feel like they have to also and break their own code of ethics and conduct to cover for the bad ones. Or otherwise be labeled a rat and face retaliation. If any officer breaks the Law, Code of Conduct or Ethics, he should not be shielded by the Police Bill of Rights.

    ~ What is more concerning and a national security threat, is what the bad apples do off duty, or on duty but off camera……………….?

    ~ Yes, polygraphs can be beat. Yes, the are inadmissable in court. Yes, they are only as good as the examiner. But if used as a tool to weed out the bad apples, and protect the good cops, maybe they would think twice before breaking the very laws they were sworn to uphold.

    ~ All Levels of Law Enforcement have for decades felt that the polygraph is a much needed and essencial part of the hiring process. Why not change Policy that Polygraphs and Psych Evals for new Hires expire every 5yrs? (Including applicants for higher ranking positions)

    ~ DoD: Random Lie-Detector Tests Increase Personnel Security… (“the polygraph is the single most effective tool for finding information people were trying to hide.”)

    ~ National Institute of Ethics: Police Code of Silence – Facts Revealed

    ~ What Happens When an Officer Calls Out Police Corruption Within His Force?… via @epochtimes

    ~ The Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

    ~ Police Misconduct and ‘Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights’ Laws | Cato @ Liberty

    ~ Center for Investigative Reporting ~ “Crossing the line: Corruption at the border” –

    ~ Federal, State and Local Governments (including police) are excluded from the Polygraph Act of 1988.

    ~ Break the Code. Break the Culture.

    1. You can’t just break this down into good apples and bad apples though. These people take place in a system that doesn’t punish them for anything, they have absolute power over the people in their area, and as well all know, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. There is no way for these people to ever be good in a system where nobody has to account for their actions. It becomes a job for people who like to have power over people, which obviously isn’t what we want.

      Now I’m not saying cops are bad, or even that cops are good. It’s irrelevant. What I am saying is that cops are just people who are dictated by a system. A system that has killed 467 people so far this year, and I don’t think that making these people take polygraphs is going to help anything here, because they still take place in the system, and because that’s not going to stop them shooting people with reckless abandon.

      What they really need, as the article states, is harsher punishments when they do hurt or kill someone, and more transparent ways of analyzing a situation in court, because let’s be honest, if you might get put in jail, the chances are that a person will lie, if they know they can get away with it.

      And they can.

      (great article by the way. Well argued points all around buddy)

      1. Zenron,

        “These people take place in a system that doesn’t punish them for anything, they have absolute power over the people in their area …”

        In the words of Captain Harry Bryant, LAPD) in the film “Blade Runner”: “You know the score, pal. You’re not cop, you’re little people!”

  2. Here’s another link to police misconduct, It’s endless. I’m wondering if instead of taxpayers picking up the bill maybe the bill should be sent to the police.

    Let’s see, 13 cops surrounding a unmoving car and shooting at it, containing an unarmed couple, one cop decides to jump on the hood of the car and fire an additional 49 shots because he “feared for his life”! Ha! LOL! But he cannot be charged because it cannot be determined if he shot the fatal shot. So he and the rest are let go? No discipline? What is going on? If this is not the definitive statement about police not being accountable I don’t know what is.

    1. There’s another area of outrageous police behavior that has to be mentioned. It is the confiscation of property and money related to “possible” drug crimes. In most cases it is nothing more than complete thievery. I recently read about a town in Mississippi (pop. 7,033) that built their entire new police building, $4.1 million and everything that goes with it, on these types of confiscations, probably “driving while black with money”.( According to that website, “Under federal and state law, citizens can be deprived of their property and cash if police merely allege they are involved in criminal activity – even if no charges are filed against them.” I believe this is a peversion of the law’s intent. It’s not wonder that trust has completely broken down between the police and citizens.

      1. Ellifeld,

        I agree, the legalized theft by police has grown to astonishing size.

        But there are other dimensions of the problem. The courts have become an unjust extortion racket run by attorneys, providing the opposite of justice to those of the underclass caught in it. The prisons, more suitable for a third world nation than a city on the hill.

        How did things get this bad?

      2. Yes I agree, the courts play a big part of the problem. I was just reading an opinion piece in the NY times regarding federal prosecutors, Some of the comments with this article are informative also; one mentioned that implied immunity that police have apparently also is for prosecutors. One big racket not designed for justice!

        Maybe everything has gotten worse with the disparity of income. Or maybe it’s always been pretty bad and unjust, it’s just that more of this is coming out now because of phone cameras and the internet.

  3. Rather than spur change, it seems equally likely that the ever-rising payouts for police misconduct will produce a vicious cycle. Chicago has paid out nearly half a billion (with a b) dollars in lawsuits due to police misconduct over the past 10 years; Los Angeles paid 54 million last year: and New York city paid a whopping 735 million dollars last year. None of these cities seems to have any problem with continued payouts, the only question seems to be: where do they get the money?
    Alas, the answer seems simple — the cities will get the money by harassing more citizens and gouging them with more fines and fees and “administrative crimes” like driving with an expired car registration. By jacking up the fines and fees, the cities criminalize more ordinary citizens…then the cities trot out phalanxes of riot-armored police to enforce those draconian fines and fees.

    In theory, the cost of these lawsuits — which are of course ultimately paid by taxpayers — are supposed to inspire better oversight, better government, and better policing. When taxpayers see their hard-earned money spent to compensate victims of police misconduct, they vote for political leaders who will hold cops more accountable. Or at least that’s the theory. I’m not sure how effective that is. I’ve seen little evidence that people generally vote on these issues, even in municipal elections.

    Source: “U.S. cities pay out millions to settle police lawsuits,” Washington Post, 1 October 2014.

    1. Thomas,

      Beware of linear projections. They are seldom found in life, which is dominated by feedback cycles. While I doubt we will see a fundamental reform of police — let alone of our criminal justice system — reforms that reduce the number of outrageous instances of police brutality seems likely.

      To assume we will see the same or even increasing number of these episodes on YouTube, plus dashboard and body cameras, strikes me as extreme unlikely.

  4. Wishful thinking is a very sane defense mechanism. As in many things, socially and politically, in the U.S., we are caught in a feedback loop of our own thinking with regards to police. We love them. They protect us from the dirty rough underclass and thus safeguard our little slice of Pie we have garnered in Life. We wish to think we are decent folks and so feign disgust with their Overreach, wring our liberal hands all the while glad these lower class people just stay in their parts of town. Some even will openly say such things but most know it deep inside. Being essentially a passive aggressive peoples, we are so subservient to our Serve and Protectors ( who are neither) and so wishfully stay in our own designated Places as we know, they will come for Us if we get too far out of line….which we never consider too deeply.

    As a side note, anyone who missed a chance at attending an OCCUPY gathering in your city, thusly missed a great chance to see the Real Cops of America! White middle class, déclassé intellectuals were confronted by the Militarized Policemen from the Corner Beat. If you can’t even assemble in protest in America, imagine what happens in the underclass areas every day. No body cams needed.
    Good luck folks when the tide turns, again.


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