Home / Its Time to Act Strategically Against Police Abuses/Militarization

Its Time to Act Strategically Against Police Abuses/Militarization

ferguson-mo-3

Police violence affects all of us regardless of color. (Photo by Sid Hastings/Associated Press)

CLICK HERE TO FILE THE PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

In recent months, particularly after the graphic video of Albuquerque police – in a military style assault – shot and killed James Boyd for unlawful camping, the national media in the US has been picking up on the overlapping stories of police brutality and misuse of force, police militarization, and the inability/refusal of our system to hold police to account under the same laws they are allegedly enforcing.  So – at the end of this brief comment on the national breadth and depth of this issue – I am putting out a call for those who read here to join me in an effort to try and DO something about the issues with which we are concerned.

Now that the mainstream media’s ear has been attuned to this issue – we are seeing more and more stories of such abuses of force and authority revealed as they are reported upon.  But the issue is not new nor is it isolated to these particular instances.  It is a long-standing, exponentially growing problem of national scope and significance.  The police culture has changed – to where they in fact view citizens as “an enemy” among whom they patrol.  Shoot to kill is not an accident – it has become normalized WITHIN the structure of authority – or “the system.”

It still does not fit with the theory or the rhetoric of how we expect our laws to operate.  But the fact is the militarization of police across the nation is a fait accompli that has been building to this point since the “tough on crime” political rhetoric of national politicians in the late 1960s.  It was never about policing – it was always about power.

In fact, if we fail to recognize two important factors we, as a society, will never understand the problem and thus never approach a solution: 1) this is a NATIONAL cancer that is destroying the country and undermining the legitimacy of officials and the authority of the system; and 2) this is NOT a racially centered problem – but a problem that has, on top of it and overlapping it, a racial element and dynamic.

We must recognize that the INSTITUTIONAL CAUSES of this crisis – this cancer which is eating away at the fabric of society – are long, deep and wide.  They are embedded in a nexus of both national and local law enforcement cultures.  A culture which has legitimized, in its own internal world-view, the militarizing trend that has been growing rapidly in recent decades across the nation.  A trend which has been effectively SUPPORTED by a generally uninformed and disconnected public.  Thus to address and hope to solve this problem – one has to recognize just how BIG a problem it actually is.  This is not going to go away with the proper resolution in one community (if that is even likely to occur – which, unfortunately, it is not – as the system protects itself).  It requires a national community to come together and become engaged – with a strategic mindset (not just to “protest” – but to act within the context of protests in such a way as to make a more significant impact.  Mere protests serve purposes: they give people a means to give a voice to their frustrations and they give the world a familiarity with and the beginning of an understanding of a particular problem.  But if you combine that limited role and power of protests – with other strategic actions – such as taking the law into your own hands … a law that is MEANT to be taken into your own hands … and taking action, as Citizens, to hold officials to account under the law.  There is no need to keep “waiting” for “them” to “serve” “us.”  WE must take the initiative – and as I will say in conclusion – the most effective means of STARTING a citizen-based MOVEMENT that can do more than voice the public’s concerns but actually contribute to actual changes I argue is to use the state Public Records laws.

The second issue that must be recognized is that the police problem is NOT merely a race-relations issue.  There is, no doubt about it, a real racial issue, problem and dynamic ASSOCIATED with the police abuses of power and force, the double standards between police and citizens when it comes to being held accountable under the law, and the growing number of citizen deaths at the hands of a militarily-armed state.

Yes we can see in localities such as Ferguson, MO that there is a very real racial element to the particular problems on the ground there.  A problem that can be seen throughout the country.  Police often do not “look like” (or even “come from” or “live among”) the community they are policing.  But we know, also, that nationally – the only “color line” that tends to be recognized by those who have become enculturated in the national police norms is the legendary “Thin Blue Line.”  Black officers shoot and kill black citizens weekly (if not daily) in America.  White officer shoot and kill white citizens.  Because the officers are not themselves necessarily working, first, from a racial bias.  (It is there – in certain places, with certain individuals, in particular cases; as well as “in the air” surrounding the police culture).  But are starting – before the racist element may even begin to have its effect – from an “us vs. them” bias.  The officers, no longer actually “in blue” (primarily wearing paramilitary non-reflective black or heavily armored camouflage battle uniforms), think of themselves as an “us” and the rest of us as a “them” – regardless of our color.

It is this fundamental disparity with traditional American principles – where police are there to “serve and protect” the citizens, rather than view us as all potential criminals or “the enemy” – which is the root cause of the problems that are existent and growing exponentially across the country.  Yes – again – we can recognize that in cases such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner that there is an indisputable racial element and issue that needs to be addressed in the particular community – an issue that is spread across the nation and not limited only to one region or a particular locality.  But an issue that, even if properly addressed, will not be able to solve the problem of the more general abuse of police power/force/authority and of the growing militarization, with the us vs them divide between civilians and the “militarized police” (police becoming but a domestic arm of the military) as the starting point.

To really address and solve this highly significant national crisis – will require a nationally organized Citizen effort with a very real strategic element consciously developed.

These issues have to be solved locally – one by one – until a growing norm and following trend are set that brings a similar impetus for change to bear across the nation (and not just in a momentary “hot spot”).  But while the issue has to be addressed primarily through local means – local people cannot succeed at this on their own.  Our system of government and governance is broken – it is corrupted at its core.  People do not, on their own, have sufficient power – in actual effect – to determine government policies and actions – at either the local, state or national level.  Not just acting as a mass of non-organized individuals standing up merely for what is right.

To succeed against the “interests” and “powers” that be, so to speak, local communities have to be incorporated into a national strategy.  Where those with a common cause across the nation collectively cooperate and strategically organize to use that NATIONAL power to OVERCOME the local status quo and its opposition to change.  If successful in a few particular communities that “movement” can begin to grow and spread – and its message and impact can begin to take on a life of its own.

But to get there some more, hard, work has to be done ON THE GROUND.  And any of us – just ordinary citizens – have both the power and authority to take those first steps.

The first step is obvious: we need to know the facts.  But the police and the local governments are attempting to limit and control what information the public is given.  However – those activities are often a violation of the law itself.  Most states – including Missouri and New York (the two most notorious of the most recent cases being there) – have very strong public records law with very limited exemptions.  Most, if not all, of the records related to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, BY LAW, are already records that you and I – as members of the public – have a RIGHT to have before us.

Rather than waiting till others release them to us – its time for us to start standing up for our rights and forcing their release without further delay.

Therefore I am calling upon all of the readers of PINAC to comment on this thread that you are willing TO TAKE ACTION.  Help by joining with me to do in New York City and in Ferguson, Mo what I have been doing in Albuquerque – with a major public records push BY CITIZENS to obtain transparency and seek accountability for those empowered and entrusted with law enforcement authority.

By Monday – I will have the first in a series of public records requests drafted for each of these two situations.  What I am asking YOU to do – is to take the same request that I filed – and file it in your own name.  Then keep us informed of what, if any, responses you get from City and Law Enforcement officials.  We will start with the basics – we will demand the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of the complete set of reports filed after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.  I want to see HUNDREDS – even THOUSANDS 0f people – making this same request – until it is finally released, as the law already requires.

Then I will be seeking help – to find those on the ground in each of those areas – to take the next step and ramping up the public records initiative.  We need to build a base PINAC-ORP (Open Records Project) team in each locality.  Working together with them, on the ground, we will seek to obtain any and all relevant records to these cases and to the issues underlying them – and to make all such records readily available to the public.  We will need help, again on the ground in those states, seeking to find lawyers who are willing to take on the “powers-that-be” in Court and to defend the right to public records and the public’s right to know.  We can do this – effectively – if we work together, across the nation as well as within each locality, in a strategic manner.

In this process we will learn – and expose – two things: (1) the facts that are directly related to the particular killings in these two cases; and (2) the facts that demonstrate how those local law enforcement and political agencies and officials deem themselves to be “above” the law – and not subject to laws such as the public records laws which are meant to empower citizens in the ability to hold officials to account to the public and under the law.

Let me know who is willing to stand up and help in this effort.  On Monday – after I hear back from officials in Missouri – I will have the FIRST request ready to be made – and to be made by a large number of concerned citizens.  I am hoping that those reading here will show how much latent and potential power we have by participating in this project.

CLICK HERE TO FILE THE PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

******

Charlie Grapski, who is heading PINAC’s new Open Records Project, can be reached at charliegrapski@pinac.org.

About Charlie Grapski

  • rust

    Every single Enforcer involved in citizen abuse in this episode MUST be brought to account for their actions. DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY

  • borderraven

    I’m in.

  • FitzND

    Looking to 2016, if the choices are really going to be Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton, there is going to be an ocean of difference between their positions on the police, on surveillance, and our Constitutional rights. We could see quite a lively debate on this very issue.

    • inquisitor

      A difference between their positions.
      A lively debate.
      Little to no action or change either way.

  • Charlie Grapski

    For those willing to participate – I will post a new updated story on the request on MONDAY.

    The only reason it has to wait until then – is because I cannot get anyone in the local police department in Missouri to provide me with the email address of the public records custodian. And so I will not be able to get that vital information until that person is in the office Monday.

    • Fascist Slayer

      I think one very important question that needs to be asked and addressed is in Kiev, Ukraine a few months back, Ukrainians burned cops and law enforcement officials alive, they doused them with gasoline and set them on fire, they kidnapped them and brutally tortured them in secret locations, firebombed them, beat them with bats, they broke up sidewalks with hammers and made weapons stock piles and smashed the cops heads in with the bricks. They stormed prosecutors offices, threatened to kill them and destroyed State records, they burned government buildings to the ground, they stormed court chambers and held judges hostage, they threatened to kill and intimidated democratically elected officials. U.S. Senators and top U.S. Embassy officials passed out candy and provided them with playbooks and words of encouragement on how to overthrow a democratically elected government. When the Ukrainian police and authorities tried in vain to peacefully stop the violence, the American government took to the world stage and issued international threats and unyielding warnings of international consequences directly to the police and authorities of Kiev if they interfered with protesters . The question that needs to be asked of American authorities and law enforcement is, does this action set a precedence for protesters in Fascist Amerika?

      • http://www.policemisconduct.net Film The Police Always

        Sweet!

  • Raylan Givens

    We need to contact our Congressmen, Senators etc and push for a Congressional Hearing on the statistics and facts of the abuse of power in law enforcement today. It needs to be pushed to the point where it would be a felony charge “to any officer that arrests an individual for recording in public” while not interfering with the officers official duties.

    A law that all LEO’s must at all times have a video recording AND a separate AUDIO device recording at all times during each and every shift. Both in and out of car.

    In the future, the only applicants for cops would be those that don’t care about being held accountable to the communities in which they serve because they wouldn’t do anything wrong. Thus, making a much more safer and effective policing environment for all of us.

    • Fascist Slayer

      If the United States was one 1/2 the fucking nation that it stands on the world stage and proclaims to be, they would have immediately 1) arrested the fascist bastard police officers who arrested and detained the journalist in that McDonalds in Ferguson MO, and 2) they would arrest that fascist bastard police officer who was sitting on top of that SWAT vehicle with his military weapon trained upon American citizens, as a matter of fact they should ship that Son of a Bitch off to Iraq, boots on the ground, front line face to face with ISIS. If that little bastard wants a war, then hand it to him on a silver platter. DRAFT HIS ASS TODAY !!! But I don’t guess Americans will be seeing anything like that anytime soon, now will they? The United States is a fascist rot of a nation spying on EVERYONE and EVERYTHING all while building a domestic army against it own people. Yea.. call your congressman.

      • ENTWAFFNUNGDERGESTAPO!

        You’re right, except the US isn’t 1/100 of the nation that it proclaims to be. If we were, there would be a lot of nazis lynched. Not just arrested. Dangling strange fruit sacrificed at the tree of liberty to the gods of justice.

  • Chip Seal

    Last week, under your inspiration, I learned all about Texas open records law. I have asked both the city of Arlington’s and Fort Worth’s attorney general for a copy of their Brady list. By law it will have to be heavily redacted.

    Fort Worth has already told me that they do not have such a list. Still waiting on Arlington.

    • inquisitor
    • Falutin Free

      Not sure if it matters but I have heard it referred to as a Brady disclosure.

      • Charlie Grapski

        The “disclosure” is the act that is required when you are a party to a legal case – the other party MUST disclose to you all pertinent/relevant information – including, in this instance, any facts about an officer’s history of misconduct.

        The “list” would be something – either formal or informal – that would be either what was disclosed or the source from which such was disclosed – if maintained by an agency.

        I don’t know what the legal REQUIREMENTS are – pertaining to MAINTAINING such lists.

        If, however, any particular law enforcement agency IS required by state or local law – to MAINTAIN such a list – and that State has a public records law – MORE LIKELY THAN NOT – that record would be a PUBLIC record – that upon request – would legally have to be provided.

    • Charlie Grapski

      What I would do – is for those that claim they do not have such a document – give a DESCRIPTION of the document – rather than a particular name – and say it is “often referred to as” X, Y, Z. But the DESCRIPTION then becomes the key.

      • StevieNitro

        Who does the Brady Disclosure request go to?

        • Charlie Grapski

          It would depend on the state and the particular agency.

          But generally – any official or records custodian who maintains such records for an agency (i.e. a police department or a state/district attorney or a state’s Attorney General) – would be where you would send such a request.

          This will vary by state and agency.

        • Charlie Grapski

          The prior post was in reference to getting that as a public record – without being a party to a case.

          If you are a party to the case – you provide that demand for disclosure to the opposing party’s counsel.

          • Chip Seal

            The courts have held prosecutors to a higher standard than that, federally. They must produce Laurie list info even in the absence of a request.

            Texas law prevents public disclosure of any officer on the list through an open doc req, but I just want a redacted list or the number of officers on it.

            If there is no list, then the prosecutor must be doing an internal audit of any officer appearing as a witness… yeah right! I’ll keep plugging away.

    • Charlie Grapski

      Chip – I am really happy to learn that you have gone out and found out more about Texas’ public records laws.

      Feel free – at any time – to ask any questions you might have in how to maximize the effectiveness of these laws.

  • MOLON LABE

    “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin

    http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/legacy/slideshow/gallery/album1/large/lgben.jpg

    • inquisitor

      British Secret Service Agent No. 72

      • MOLON LABE

        American Special agent No. 76, salute!

  • Virtualfrog

    Looking forward to working with you on this one. Monday it is then and keep up the great work. :-)

  • dan from stl

    Carlos,

    I posted it in another thread, but in case you missed it.

    The Missouri ACLU filed for a TRO to keep police from preventing
    filming in Ferguson. The TRO hearing was today and the defendants
    agreed they had to allow filming.

    https://twitter.com/aclu_mo

    http://t.co/LKW5jhqqye Settlement agreement

    http://t.co/Es3F5AxlGH Request for TRO

    Seems like this might be a better approach for you guys. As soon as someone
    tells you to stop filming, go straight to the courthouse and file for a
    TRO. You don’t have to mess with getting arrested, long drawn out suits
    for money, filing complaints etc etc. Get your rights violated, file
    for the TRO, and see a judge within a couple of days.

    • dan from stl

      Actually hearing was yesterday, when I made the first post.

    • Fascist Slayer

      “Parties acknowledge and agree that the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgement unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties”.

      All law enforcement has to say is that said action was obstructing activity and or was a threat to the safety of others and or was physically interfering with the LE ability to perform their duty, case closed. Is it really a free press if one has to file a suit and then go to court and have a judge to give you permission to do it, and with certain conditions and stipulations, that’s not freedom, that’s not a free press.

    • Charlie Grapski

      Yes – the ACLU has also filed a case to force the police to produce records in the case.

      But this is why it is so important to have individual citizens making such requests – and getting standing in court to make a demand for such.

      Potentially – if we get a couple hundred or thousand requests for basic information – there are possibilities of adding causes of actions along these lines to strengthen the issue in Court.

  • Fascist Slayer

    URGENT MESSAGE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE !! URGENT MESSAGE.

    Egyptian Revolution 2011!!! Do you remember that??? You were lied to America about the Egyptian Revolution, they lied to you. They told you that the Egyptian Revolution was because the Egyptians wanted freedom blah, blah, blah, puke, and because of the dictator President Mubarak, you know, the fascist dictator that the United States had been supporting, funding and propping up for decades. NO, they lied to you, what really happened was the Egypt police murdered and killed Khaled Mohammed Said. While many Egyptians were killed at the hands
    of the Egyptian police, this was the one killing that pushed the Egyptian people to the revolution. Ask your law enforcement if the next person they beat or kill will spark the next American Revolution,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx3XHhtMNs8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dQTnN9t9Sk

  • http://www.policemisconduct.net Film The Police Always

    Nothing will change. Missouri has put a black cop from the State Police in charge, and the dummys there are hugging him and shaking his hand as if he’s some god sent black hero. . He’s acting as if he’s god sent. He’s nothing but a big ole fat UNCLE TOM for the white system that hates black people.

    Mark my words, but this Ferguson thing will slowly wind down, the internal investigation with help from the FBI will say that the murdering cop acted within policy and he did nothing wrong. Just watch and you shall see.

    • Fascist Slayer

      If you look at that god sent black hero, he looks at times a bit bewildered as if he’s thinking, “I can’t believe I’m deceiving my fellow countrymen in this manner, I’m going to burn in hell”.

    • Charlie Grapski

      That will only be the outcome – if people don’t persistently and consistently stand up and demand more. That means not waiting for what those officials “give” us – but MAKING them do what we expect.

    • ENTWAFFNUNGDERGESTAPO!

      Cynical as it is, I agree that this is the most likely outcome. Still I’m hopeful.

      Finally watched Django Unchained. Perhaps my favorite Tarantino flick to date. With all the slavery social dynamics fresh in my mind, Ferguson sure looks like one head house nigger in charge being replaced with another HHNIC? While it looks all “kumbaya, can’t we all just get along, peace and love,” I think a huge dose of skepticism and cynicism is in order. Black, white, or brown, badges should be considered armed and dangerous criminals of the worst kind. Until proven otherwise.

      afnmfh

  • Mahonri Young

    Any law enforcement officer or official found to commit a crime should get enhanced penalties – Greater than those of a normal citizen without the ‘authority’ of the badge and courts.
    As for ‘shoot to kill’ – that is normal and expected. Shoot to wing someone is a fairy tale from the movies and stupid people. You shoot for center mass and keep shooting until the target is down and totally disabled and disarmed. Our cops are trained this way and it is the only way that makes sense.
    Shooting without provocation and outright attacks against citizens have to stop – again, greater punishment for this type of abuse of power. Nothing should prevent an officer from defending their life and the lives of fellow officers and civilians. But expecting them to hold back out of fear of prosecution when their life is honestly threatened is stupid.
    They are not the enemy, just poorly trained and some bad apples in the bunch. Much better training and weeding out the bad apples will help solve these problems.

    • Boko Hos

      Wrong on all points. “claiming” fear for your life is the problem, as it cannot be proven.

      • Charlie Grapski

        Worse – the police are being TRAINED in stock phrases to use whenever a shooting occurs. Not to be “truthful” – but to provide non-answer answers to questions – so that the “justifiable” claim can be declared to be backed by the evidence.

  • carol brown

    I am willing, ready and able to request records

  • Police Lie

    End the war on drugs and you end a large portion of police interaction with the public.
    Vote Rand Paul.
    Arm yourself and don’t be afraid to show up with friends to oppose the government.
    Learn from the Bundy Ranch supporters. The government is a paper tiger.
    The 2nd Amendment is vital to freedom and liberty.

    • Charlie Grapski

      It is true that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been the VEHICLE for most escalation of police abuses, militarization of police forces, and loosening of legal limits on police.

      Ending it would end a lot of particular abuses.

      But ending even that – no longer – will remove the LEGACY thereof. The whole police culture, and political culture that reinforces that, has to be recreated – nationally – from scratch.

      But DO NOT “learn” from the Bundy Ranch supporters. That is a MAJOR MISTAKE.

      If you want to EFFECTIVELY “arm” yourself – arm yourself with the LAW.

      If you think the answer to the abuse of power in America today is going to be solved with a show of force – then you need to be able to put an army on the streets with equivalent firepower. And you are NOT about to succeed in that.

      Furthermore – the armed Bundy supporters – did NOT prevail. They merely delayed the inevitable.

  • BabbaZee

    Christie faces mounting lawsuits over public records
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/christie-faces-mounting-lawsuits-public-records/
    The attorney general’s office did not respond to multiple requests for information about how many open records-related complaints their office is litigating now or how much those cases have cost the state.

    • Charlie Grapski

      Sounds like a good NJ public records request – to the attorney general’s office.

  • Charles McCabe

    I’m in.

  • Charlie Grapski

    Here is the link to the PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST – you just have to CUT & PASTE it into an email – and use the provided email addresses.

    https://www.causes.com/campaigns/82154-request-the-incident-report-s-of-the-michael-brown-shooting?conversion_request_id=103423211&recruiter_id=15899657&utm_campaign=share&utm_content=campaign&utm_medium=wall&utm_source=fb

    I will post it into the story above. As well as later post a new story just on this.

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