As most of you are aware, the killers of Kelly Thomas, former Fullerton Law Enforcement Officers Manny Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were found not guilty earlier today.
What does this teach us? It teaches many things, at least it teaches only for those who choose to listen and ask questions. Some of these lessons are more obvious than others, and some are much harder to learn than others. But if we are to learn from this and reform the way our Law Enforcement Departments operate we have to question our own beliefs as well as those of others who do not necessarily agree with us. Hopefully non-Libertarians will be kind enough to listen to us and consider our issues with Law Enforcement.
Here are the lessons that should be taken away from this senseless death. Some of these may seem obvious or overlap. Add what you think is missing or needs revision. Let’s see in the comments. What are your thoughts?
Accused Law Enforcement Officers have and enjoy, a much higher burden of proof than ordinary citizens in criminal trials. If under similar circumstances (video evidence, audio recordings) regular citizens were charged with such a crime. We’d have heard of their convictions earlier today.
Law Enforcement Officers do not have to be polite or courteous and oftentimes by insulting and demeaning people they inflame situations rather than stabilize them.
Yes you are being judged based on your ethnicity, socio-economic status, general appearance, age, attractiveness, and the car you drive. God help you if you’re a mentally ill drifter. Those empty energy drink cans on the bottom of your passenger seat floorboard? That means you might be using meth. Singing your favorite song in the car? Thats erratic behavior. Wearing a bikini top and shorts? You’re not coming home from the beach, you might be a prostitute. Your dog is wagging its tail? SHOOT IT! Its a potential threat. Mini Van? No need to see if children are inside, just open fire! The new modus operandi is guilty!
Law Enforcement Departments as government organizations enjoy a high level of protection from external pressure to change and reform, and they don’t even apologize for making mistakes. Recently Law Enforcement raided an incorrect residence, what was the resident told? He was told he was lucky he didn’t get shot. Every time its the same response, “The action was justified and within policy”, “We acted on credible information”, and of course don’t forget “Paid Administrative Leave”.
Unions representing Law Enforcement Officers effectively lobby elected officials to weaken civil rights, swell budgets beyond need, authorize the purchase of military hardware, bestow overly generous pay and benefits, and maintain and add to the penal code to give them more “work” to do.
Law Enforcement Officers are oftentimes improperly trained or not trained at all to interact with homeless and mentally ill individuals. We even now hear stories of individuals dying because Law Enforcement Officers can’t discern a seizure/insulin shock from a physical attack.
Many Law Enforcement Departments still only require a High School Diploma as the educational benchmark to enter its profession. Even being a retail manager oftentimes requires a 4 year college degree. Nothing against an associates degree level of education, but we should reconsider what education is required to become an officer.
The War on Terror and the War on Drugs have empowered Law Enforcement with un-winnable Federal mandates. Drug abuse is a medical/social issue, it should only be a criminal issue when lives are endangered. Local Law Enforcement now resemble military personnel (same gear, different color). There are even departments with armored personnel carriers and 50 caliber machine guns because you never know when Al Qaeda will attack your local burger joint. Protect and Serve is being replaced by Shock and Awe.
Lazy voters fall for the “Tough on Crime” political tactic. We always see these politicians who want to show you just how tough they can be on crime. Do you know what that really means? It means they will write and/or vote for more bad laws that empower Law Enforcement to intrude on your life even more.
Given the tonality of my list some might think I have it out for Law Enforcement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many in Law Enforcement are kind, empathetic, funny, loving, helpful, and are highly skilled and intelligent. Some are members of great organizations like L.E.A.P. and The Oathkeepers. They have been my clients and friends. Many even volunteer their time off the clock to help in their community.
The problem is that there is a sizable minority of those in Law Enforcement that are savage, hateful, psychologically scarred, and masochistic. Combine that with mandates from state and federal government that erode our rights and give militarized hardware and attitudes to Law Enforcement. Then throw in the “blue line” culture where no Officer dare report another’s misdeeds. It can turn the noble into depraved and the ignoble into evil. What would you think of a business where 20% of the employees treat you like dirt? Would you do business with them if if you could help it? Well you can’t exactly ignore Law Enforcement.
Careful readers will note I have not used the term Police or Peace Officer until just now. These two terms are antiquated and really should longer apply. What Kelly Thomas’ death teaches us is that Law Enforcement is now the proper term, because they indeed are being turned primarily into just agents of force.