Monday, June 06, 2011

CA: Modesto coverup

In a move unsurprising to many, a five-month investigation into brutality and corruption of the Modesto Police Department has exonerated local law enforcement of any wrong doing. The investigation was launched to look into charges of police brutality that steamed from a series of leaked emails by both former and anonymous police officers claiming that the beating of suspects was common and that higher-up police, including Chief Harden, knew about the violations.

The "findings" of the investigation come at a time when former Stanislaus County Sheriff's detective Kari Abbey is charged with "second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter along with conspiracy, embezzlement, cultivating marijuana, receiving stolen property and child endangerment, according to a criminal complaint." More sinister, is the charge that Kari and her Haywood police boyfriend evicted people from their rentals for Abbey's landlord parents. Several Modesto police officers also face ongoing charges ranging from drunk driving, spousal abuse, and taking drugs from evidence.

And just as the investigation into the Modesto police began at a time of increased police shootings and accusations of abuse and corruption, the day the report was released to the public, local police again made headlines another fatal shooting. Police shot and killed Jermey Atkinson after responding to an armed robbery at a store on Coffee road on May 24th. During a chase of Atkinson, police claimed that he reached into his waistband and they fired in self-defense. Later, according to the Modesto Bee: "A knife was found near the body of the man shot by a Modesto police officer last week, and the loaded rifle police say he used to rob a convenience store was recovered in a nearby field, police said Tuesday."

Again, like a mantra, we hear the police repeating the same line over and over again. A suspect "reaches for their waist-band" and the officers "fearing for their lives" shoot them in self-defense. Only later it turns out that the suspect is armed with only a spatula - or no weapon at all.

The investigative report, issued by a Palo Alto based lawyer, which cost tax-payers $75,000 (on top of the nearly $100,000 for police accreditation), concludes that there is not a problem with rampant police brutality or corruption. The report issued by Robert Aaronson claims that the series of emails issues about ongoing brutality are unfounded, based largely on interviews with police officers. He also cites the shooting death of Francisco Moran, claiming that officers shot Moran in order to protect "his family members and themselves," only later discovering that the weapon he was pulling from his pants was in fact a spatula.

Aaronson's "suggestions" for the community are as follows. He claims that most escalations of force are largely the result of failures by the public to respond and comply with police commands. As he states, "The vast majority of law enforcement uses of force...are in response to a stated or perceived refusal to cooperate." Thus, according to Aaronson, it is the fault of those shot and abused in encounters with the police who are to blame, not the police and the system that gives them power.

Aaronson claims that if citizens do feel that their rights have been violated, they should issue complaints against certain officers in order to hold the police "accountable." He also states that anonymous or "masked" critique at the police hinders the ability of people to hold the police accountable. We feel that this comment is directed not only at the people writing the anonymous emails, but also at Modesto Anarcho who participated in the disruption of the police accreditation meeting while wearing masks with the likeness of Rita Elias and Francisco Moran.

As Kristian Williams, author of Our Enemies in Blue recently wrote:

"The "police accountability" framework suggests, necessarily, that policing can be improved simply by bringing it under the control of the community, or if not the community, then at least its elected representatives. This approach suggests, of course, that the institution will survive, albeit in a more friendly, more lawful form. The view of policing implied in this perspective is that it is legitimate and necessary, and that the problems it presents are the effect of individual misconduct or organizational dysfunction.

The abolitionist critique, on the other hand, is that the problems of policing - the racism, the class bias, the violence - speak to the real character and the deepest purpose of the institution. The answer, then, is not to create better, smarter, more sensitive, skilled, and law-abiding cops; the answer is to get rid of the institution altogether and put in its place something that genuinely does meet our needs for public safety and dispute resolution. As it happens, that requires a totally different kind of society, one without the inequalities that the cops preserve, and the hope is that by going after the cops we bring that new society closer to existence."

Regular readers of this blog know our positions - there is no reasons to beat a dead horse. We feel that the push to hold the police "accountable" is foolish and also not possible. People who issue complaints have their papers lost, often are intimidated, and in general, find their complaints un-sustained. Some people who issue complaints have even been harassed by officers and threatened. Thus, how can we expect people to become open and completely public with complaints when they fear the police themselves. Lastly, it's the police who are the most anonymous. Every time one of them murders, they are put on paid administrative leave and have their names with-held from the newspapers. It is even a crime under the police bill of rights for people to learn the extent of their past brutal "encounters." It is the police who are the most anonymous, not us. It is they who hide behind the full and brutal power of the state - not us.

There is no way to 'hold the police accountable,' when the very system that would do so is the same system that continuously vindicates the police every time they murder and abuse. Following Aaronson's logic, it's the fault of the victim anyway that police encounters get out of hand. Perhaps Oscar Grant just should have followed orders and he wouldn't have been shot. Perhaps women in New York should have shut their mouths and they wouldn't have been brutally raped.

Thus, police apologists, even 'liberal' ones such as Aaronson send us a simple message. The message is to shut up and let the system work. If you have a problem, file a complaint and let the system do it's job. If the police are abusing you or violating you, shut up and let them do their job. If you don't, you'll only risk a bullet to the head or a harsher sentence. This is a message that we don't have to pay $75,000 to obtain, we've been told it day in and day out over and over again. For those of us sick of the rampant murder, corruption, and brutality, it's time flip this script once and for all.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

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