By VennerRoad, 20th Jun 2017
American blacks are angry over the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez. If you aren’t too, you should be.
This is not the way police should act.
The refusal of the American authorities to prosecute Hillary Clinton in the face of overwhelming evidence of both criminal incompetence and financial corruption has led to the claim that just as only the little people pay taxes - in the words of Leona Helmsley - so only the little people are penalised for breaking laws. This is not quite true because prisons in the United States and the rest of the world house a fair number of wealthy inmates, some of whom like the unfortunate Max Clifford have been convicted of imaginary crimes.
Although wealth does indeed bring privilege, there is a privilege money can’t buy; this is the one that applies almost solely to police officers. Broadly speaking there are two types of police corruption: bent for self, and bent for the job. Generally, police officers who are bent for self are not tolerated, as sexual predator Daniel Holtzclaw discovered to his cost. Bent for the job is an entirely different matter though. When police officers manufacture evidence, suppress exculpatory evidence, or at times beat, even torture, suspects, everyone concerned looks the other way. There is massive documentation for this on both sides of the Atlantic. But does this extend to murder?
Thankfully no. At least not in the age of cheap smartphones and social media. To that one must add the qualification most of the time, because even when there is overwhelming evidence of, if not mens rea then criminal stupidity, very often the authorities will still not prosecute, and if they do, the jury will not convict.
In Magnum Force, the second film in the Dirty Harry franchise, which was released way back in 1973, anti-hero cop Harry Callahan confronts a group of vigilante police officers who have been murdering the city’s lowlife. As he does so, one of them asks him: “Do you have any idea how hard it is to prosecute a cop?”
That was a rhetorical question then; sadly it was still a rhetorical question 18 years later when a group of thugs in uniform beat the hapless Rodney King senseless. They were acquitted in spite of the video evidence. Fast forward to July 6, 2016, and although the actual shooting of Philando Castile was not captured on video, the entire aftermath was, thanks to the presence of mind of Diamond Reynolds. If you haven’t seen the actual footage, you will find edits of it and much more on YouTube. Look at the way these animals treated her as her lover bled to death; they forced her out of the car at gunpoint and told her to walk backwards towards them. Then she was forced to her knees and handcuffed behind her back while her infant daughter sat in the car crying. If she hadn’t complied would they have shot and killed her too? Sadly that is another rhetorical question. If she hadn’t been not only filming but live streaming the video they would probably have killed her anyway then concocted some cock and bull story about her pulling a gun on them. If you think that claim is outrageous, study some of the thousands of hours of police brutality on YouTube and other video sites: the killings, the beatings, the cover ups, the lies, the perjury...then think again.
Was Philando Castile murdered? Many believe so, but it is inconceivable that Jeronimo Yanez was guilty of anything less than involuntary manslaughter, yet a jury acquitted him totally. One juror who spoke afterwards said there were two hold outs, and these were not the two blacks on the jury. How can anyone be so blind? The State could have avoided this insane acquittal by offering Yanez a deal: plead guilty to a lesser charge or face a murder indictment. This sort of pressure and at times blackmail is used all the time against regular defendants, including many who are totally innocent - think Brian Banks - but the privilege money can’t buy doesn’t work like that.
Murder victim Walter Scott.
Even more shocking than the Yanez acquittal was the hung jury in the Slager case. Again, if you haven’t seen it, the shooting of the unarmed, defenceless Walter Scott was filmed by a citizen. After a brief struggle with Slager, Scott ran off, and without even shouting to the unarmed man to stop, Slager fired at him no fewer than eight times - five bullets connected. Then Slager staged the crime scene and lied about what had happened.
In Tennessee v Garner (1985), it was held that a police officer has no right to shoot an unarmed fleeing felon unless he has cause to believe that individual poses an immediate danger. Walter Scott was no angel, but he was no felon either, and unless he was running towards a crowd wearing a suicide vest or something of that nature, on what grounds could he reasonably have been shot and killed? Short of some fanciful psychological defence, this was a clear cut case of murder, but when Slager stood trial in December last year, one juror held out, and a mistrial was ruled. Slager has since pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and is currently awaiting sentence, hopefully a long one.
Less outrageous than the killing of Walter Scott but no more justifiable was the shooting of the unarmed Terence Crutcher by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby. Like Scott, Crutcher failed to comply with a lawful order, and that means he can be gunned down like a dog? Who else can be shot and killed with impunity: a shoplifter, a schoolboy scrumping for apples? At the time, Donald Trump commented on the video. Probably mindful of alienating the police vote as much as courting the black one, he said diplomatically that perhaps Shelby had “choked”, and that perhaps people who have that kind of disposition should not be policing the streets. Shelby was tried only for manslaughter, and yet again a jury of her peers could find no police evil or even depraved indifference.
Because all the aforementioned victims were black, the usual suspects have attempted to racialise the outrages as much as police apologists like Colin Flaherty have played them down, but this is far from the whole story. Last year, Daniel Harris of North Carolina, a white man, was shot and killed by a black officer. Daniel’s crime was that he was deaf. Is that supposed to appease the race-hustlers, or is this an equal opportunities policy we could all live without?
In 2014, Dillon Taylor, another white man, was shot dead in Salt Lake City; his crime was that he was wearing headphones at the time, and was mistaken for someone else. Immediately after he was shot, the very first thing the police did was handcuff him behind his back. This time, the case didn’t get anywhere near a jury. So what is to be done?
There are two things needed here: training and accountability. Although it can be argued that this is a uniquely American problem due to the country’s unique, insane gun culture, that doesn’t really address the problem. Check out this video, in particular the segment in which armed police in London take down two extremely dangerous armed terrorists, men they would have been more than justified in shooting dead. American police officers carry guns far more often than the UK police, so there is absolutely no reason for them to be less well trained than this unit.
Accountability is a slightly more difficult problem, because if juries refuse to convict however overwhelming the evidence, there is little that can be done about that, so what is needed is to hit the police union in the pocket every time one of their number shoots first and asks questions as an afterthought. Currently, as in the UK, when the police abuse their powers, any tort liability is directed only at the state, be it national or local. So in effect neither the officer(s) concerned nor the police force is punished. Clearly this is wrong. If for example a shopper is injured in a supermarket, a piece of heavy equipment falls on a man, breaking his foot, the company can be held liable, and any damages will come out of its profits, which will lead the management - perhaps under pressure from shareholders - to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen in future.
People and institutions who are not punished for their bad acts, have no incentive to change, therefore at an absolute minimum, police unions - and pensions funds - must be held liable in tort for the gratuitous bad acts of serving police officers. In October last year, it was reported that the family of Walter Scott had settled with city officials for $6.5 million. If the Fraternal Order of Police were forced to shell out three or four such settlements, we would see a dramatic fall in the number of unjustifiable police homicides.
To Wikinut Articles Page