Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Badge As a Sledgehammer

Trey Smith

On Memorial Day, in Miami, a 14-year-old black kid named Tremaine McMillan was walking down the beach with his mother – and bottle-feeding his puppy – when cops blocked his path in ATVs. A few minutes before, the kid had been rough-housing in the surf with a friend, and the cops wanted to question him about it.

Moments later, the cops body-slammed the boy — still holding his puppy — onto the beach, got him in a chokehold, and arrested him for resisting arrest.

So far, so sickeningly normal.

But in this case, the police’s cover-story for the body-slam, the chokehold, and the kid’s subsequent arrest — that he was “clenching,” or, in other accounts, “flaring” his fists – was hard to sell, due to one small but troublesome fact: cellphone video showed that the kid never stopped cradling his puppy. So the police spokesman invoked a truly terrifying specter: the teenager, he said, was giving the cops “dehumanizing stares.”

Well, of course you can’t blame battle-toughened Miami cops for starting to panic when a 14-year-old black male–armed with a puppy, mind you – starts to look at them funny.

But the truth is that these so-called “dehumanizing stares” are really “humanizing” stares — stares that forced the cops to realize that they were not successful in terrorizing this kid, and that he was committing that ancient Southern offense of looking a white man in the eye.
~ from Who’s Afraid of Black Men’s Eyes? by John Eskow ~
I realize it's tough being a police officer these days. You never know when a routine situation will turn into a tense and/or deadly one. But our domestic police forces too often resemble trigger-happy war troops -- if anything moves, shoot it!.

No, no one was shot in this instance. No one died. The issue here, however, is the overzealousness of too many police officers to employ over-the-top tactics when it is rampantly obvious that such tactics are not needed! None of the evidence in this instance remotely suggests that the actions of the police officers can be justified. A skinny kid carrying a very young puppy is not an immediate threat to anyone unless, maybe, he was wearing a suicide bombing jacket.

While I agree with the author that this episode smacks of racism, there are many instances where race doesn't appear to be a factor at all (e.g., white officers brutalizing and/or killing unarmed white men with some form of mental illness). In my mind, the tie that binds all the assorted incidents of this nature is the militarization of domestic police departments. Instead of viewing people as the citizens officers are sworn to serve, they now see all of us as potential enemy combatants to be subdued by any means possible.

And the police wonder why their stock has fallen so far in the eyes of the American public!

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