Thaddeus Howze knows what it’s like to eat pavement, have his glasses cracked, and made to bleed because he “fit the description”, so this video strikes him to his core.
WARNING: Video contains graphic images of violence.
I don’t watch rap videos. This rant isn’t going to be about that. I just wanted to let you know right from the start, I am not a fan of the media, don’t listen to it normally and don’t follow rappers with any knowledge or detail.
Until I was directed to this rap video. “Call the Cops” has a good beat, starts strong and gets directly in your face in about 30 seconds.
But instead of gratuitous ass shots and rapping about how many different drugs Rapper X used in the last six hours or how many honeys he may have had in his Benz, it shows clips of different police actions, breaking down doors, entering homes with guns drawn, attacking citizens on the street, macing groups of students…you get the idea.
Imagine a civil violation and you will get to see a cop doing it. Beating up citizens who are handcuffed? Covered. Night-sticking citizens who are held down by other cops? Got it. Banging handcuff citizens into stationary objects (like a recent reporter commented on) Yep. Slammed that perp right into a brick wall with style and technique. If it were an Olympic sport, that police officer would have gotten a solid 10.
Why am I telling you to see this video? Surely all of these images are taken out of context. When the two police officers grapple a person from a scooter and throw them bodily to the floor, face down, there had to be a compelling reason to be causing such incredible levels of injury to a person who is already riding a mobility scooter, right? Who am I to judge?
Wait, what about the cop who shoots from less than three feet (as seen by his dashcam video) a person who is fleeing from him, in the back? What about it? That officer was surely in distress as the fleeing perpetrator could have been leading him into the street so they could be shot in better light, right?
Okay, all snark aside, I am a person of color who reacted to this with violent emotion. Why? Because these are the scenes of my childhood. Watching the cops come into my neighborhoods and watching the bodies taken out of my neighborhood an hour later. Watching the cops violate the rights of young men and women just like me.
Watching them being beaten to death and the only answer left was to speak up, shout out and expect to be killed in turn, which the police officers are only too glad to point out to you as they bring their still smoking gun barrel to your face.
Yes, I have eaten my share of pavement as I am dragged down in the street because “I fit the description.” No apologies after sitting me in the back of their squad car for an hour while they determine, “No. We caught the suspect half an hour ago in the opposite direction. Yeah, you can let him go.” Didn’t get an apology, didn’t replace my broken glasses, didn’t repair my damaged dignity as local citizens in my town watch me sitting in a police car bleeding all over the place.
Yet, no one seems to think there is a problem with the police and their behavior. You see, I don’t subscribe this to just being a race thing. I see it as a conflict between what is expected, what is realistic, and what is possible.
It is possible for the police to do their job with less violence. No where else in the world do the police use as much force in their day to day operations as the United States. Nowhere do more people die in the course of a year in basic law enforcement than they do in the US. We know it is possible, but we don’t expect it.
We don’t expect the police to do their jobs with less violence because, frankly that violates the Man Code of Violent Conduct. A special code of behavior which says if you are a man, VIOLENCE is one of the primary tools you use to solve problems. Don’t believe me? Let me show you.
You are a man standing on a train platform with your woman in your arms. A man comes up behind her and grabs her ass. She tells you this has happened. What are you supposed (expected by your culture) to do. Talk it out? Walk away? Hell, no. You are supposed to beat that asshole. As a society, this is the expectation of a Real Man. He resolves violation with violence. Any violation. No matter how small or egregious.
Now imagine yourself as part of a Manly Culture. A paramilitary culture. A police culture where violence is part and parcel of the trade. Where you are trained in a military fashion, to respond to threats with extreme violence, not just the ordinary activity of manly men where a quick sock to the jaw might solve the problem for the moment.
You are authorized to use whatever force you deem necessary. And if you “believe” your life is in danger, you can use the most lethal force necessary.
Now, let’s take Manly Men, from subcultures where being a man is considered with being the biggest, strongest, toughest you can be. Cultures not known for sensitivity or being concerned about how others may feel, say; Jocks, military men, being two of the primary recruiting groups for police departments, then indoctrinate them into the idea that the police are right, that there are ways around civilian “civil rights” and that the people you will be facing off against will be violent, dangerous, and always capable of taking your life. What kind of cop do you suppose you will end up with?
Season that with whatever inherent racist thinking that police officer may have, because contrary to popular belief, the police may or may not, screen for such behaviors, depending on whatever the local statutes require. Add to that racist thinking, any class-related disapproval that officer may have, and since many officers fail to live in the same areas they police, it is likely their feelings toward the poorer members of society may be reflected in their work behavior.
Now add one last element. Good old fashioned fear and stress reactions. You are a cop. You work a tough beat. The crime rate in your city is high, but your department does not have enough officers to maintain full staffing. This means you work longer hours, you have more stress. You don’t get sufficient rest, you don’t get sufficient time away from work. You work a double shift at least three times in a month.
A perfect storm for questionable behavior. Manly men, used to resolving issues with force, taken to a paramilitary environment where they are trained that force is the most effective means of bringing down a threat to the general public and more importantly to you. Add whatever racial or class-based animus, or psychological dysfunction (PTSD, anxiety, neuroses), poor eating habits and insufficient rest and then give them carte-blanche to do whatever they think is necessary while they patrol the streets and BANG, every 28 hours two Black men will be dead somewhere in the land.
Not to mention any number of near-death experiences for anyone else unfortunate enough to cross these over-worked, over-stressed, under-appreciated civil servants. Now how do I have the temerity to go here, when I just spent the last 800 words pointing out how the police could be the most dangerous gang in the nation?
Easy. Because they are over-worked. And over-stressed.
Most police departments draw more overtime than any other civil work group because there are simply not enough of them, per capita to go around. Their jobs do suck, because they are expected to meet quotas, (yes, we know there are no official quotas, but enough police have come out anonymously saying there are, that we will just go with that) arrests, stop and frisks, car searches depending if you live in a drug trafficking region of the nation, and with such activity comes both animosity and real danger.
They are under-appreciated. While this video shows the inherent horrors of bad cops, doing bad things, to maybe good people or at least people who had the expectation of, having their civil rights respected, theirs is a job few people have an understanding for or respect of. Articles like the one in the Washington Post do not help their cause. Sunil Dutta, a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department said:
“Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you,” he writes. “Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?”
This statement pretty much sums up the police disdain for the citizens they stop. Do what I say, even if I violate your rights, even if I might harm you physically, even if I am engaged in an illegal activity, even if you dare to ask for my badge number and I beat you senseless because of it, you had best tow the line or I will be within my capability to beat you to death or so close to it you wish you were.
And I will take my two weeks of vacation while my department works out how to clear my name of any wrong-doing, thank you very much.
In an age of hyper-militarized police departments, where force is the order of the day, where collateral damage in terms of citizens whose rights are routinely violated, many of whom are killed, often before being arrested, with the occasional smattering of being killed after they are arrested. With limited accountability in terms of what recourse citizens have once their rights are violated or their family members have been injured, traumatized or killed, how should people take that statement and many others like it, placing the blame solely upon the citizens?
Should the family whose child was injured when a flash-bang went off in his crib, blasting a hole in his chest and leaving him in a medically induced coma and with $800,000 worth of medical expenses (let alone what other issues this event will leave the child with) be allowed to just walk away? Right now, that police department has decided it will not pay any medical expenses because their invasion of that home was in the legitimate search of a perpetrator.
What about the people who weren’t involved? What about this family who had just lost their home and was crashing in this house with their friend? Don’t they matter? Is it really just about getting the perp, fuck your rights and your safety, we have prisons that need filling, lawyers need clients, judges need caseloads and we don’t care of a few of you get hurt while we do our jobs.
Between the war on drugs, the militarization of police, and the prison-industrial complex we should, as citizens, get used to the fact that we will become the collateral damage of our hyper-masculine, testosterone-driven, socially-maladjusted, police officers more concerned with getting home at night than whether you or I die in their pursuit of their brand of militarized justice and law enforcement.
But let me ask you something. Aren’t I a tax paying citizen? Don’t my taxes, in whatever roundabout fashion eventually make their way to the pockets of said police officers? And if so, isn’t any service they render on my behalf, even if it is to me, supposedly done because I make it possible? In theory, they work for me. In any other job, if a worker comes to work and shoots their employer, are they expected to be able to come back to work the next day?
This is indeed what you get, when you call the cops…