update: No indictment for Eric Garner’s chokehold death; Dallas DA-elect Susan Hawk, police body cameras and oversight
November 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
Dallas DA-elect Susan Hawk proposed to use the “office’s forfeiture funds” to pay for police body cameras. I am not sure what exactly is defined as “office forfeiture funds” (personally, I think asset forfeiture is a racket thanks to the Drug War) but some have joked that former DA Craig Watkins spent it all. For anyone who follows local government, this isn’t news but for those (the overwhelming majority of citizens) who don’t, and may be thinking, “Who is this new white lady? And what is she going to do for Dallas?”, there you have it. Body cameras are a better addition to dash board cameras. Citizens are watched all day and footage is used against us in every scenario possible. God forbid a regular citizen is caught on camera doing anything. Increased police oversight might remove the common excuses of there being inadequate footage to indict police officers. But then I was reminded by a Facebook status made by my brother. The Ferguson trial overshadowed the Ohio Walmart incident where the grand jury decided in a few days to not indict the officers who killed John Crawford III for allegedly waving an air gun at Walmart customers. After the de facto defenders of police were saying “let’s wait and see the footage,” the video was released which showed otherwise–Crawford III wasn’t a threat to anyone. In fact, the 911 caller later recanted his false statement.
The summary of my brother’s status was that despite the audio and video provided to the public during previous cases of police killings, the killers are exonerated. The reason why is because the issue at hand has never been about a lack of media, corroborating witness statements or any of that. Fruitvale Station, the movie featuring the slaying of Oscar Grant III by BART police officers, had actual cell phone footage of the incident in the film. Officer Mehserle was charged with involuntary manslaughter, served two years minus time served and was released after 6 months. Eric Garner ‘s killers, another black man in New York who was killed by police, will hopefully be indicted before the New Years (no indictment for his killers; see update above); that incident was captured on video, too. The killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice was caught on camera, too.
The problem at hand is the illusive theory of white supremacy. In addition to white supremacy, Mehserle, Darren Wilson and the other officers are all State agents–government privileged. There is absolutely no reason to believe that government privileged, white males will receive just punishment for killing mostly poor black people. Anyone who believes this is unaware of recent history, distant history, how the law works, advantages of grand juries and how the system is designed. Officers always act “within the law,” have “probable cause,” are “in fear of the life” (even if it’s a banana or a 12 year old kid on a playground) and we are told from childhood that they risk their lives for us everyday, and to salute and honor them, much like military members. With such a strong combination–white and Blue privilege (privelege enjoyed by the boys in blue)–the task for black people is daunting.
Avenues for a stronger alliance with law enforcement and black communities are closing up. The longer the Blue code of silence stays in place, the more tension will build. For me, it is hard to differentiate a good cop and a bad cop if the good cop is complicit and silent in cases such as these.
Thank you Susan Hawk for the proposal, and supporting a law similar to Wisconsin’s should be the next step. Wisconsin recently became the first state to require independent investigations and special prosecutors for officer involved shootings. Michael Bell, father of the teen who was killed by police in front of his family, thought it was unfair for the police to investigate the police. In other words, he doesn’t trust the concept of “government oversight”. It is also important to note that the almost 10 year campaign was successful because it’s face was a blonde hair, blue eyed boy. Bell acknowledges his white privelege, too.
“I have a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who was shot in the head while his hands were behind his back in handcuffs, being held down by another officer and there are five eyewitnesses, and his father is a retired Air Force colonel … and I [was] ignored and vilified. What must it be like for people aren’t in that privileged class?” Bell asked, according to Truthout.org
This reminds me of what Michelle Alexander said about the Drug War. The country would be up in arms if the Drug War was waged at Harvard, Yale or white middle class neighborhoods. So long as oppression–so long as the killing and incarceration–is contained to black neighborhoods, the country doesn’t bat an eye.
White privelege can be used for good, too!