[readolog_dropcap ]T[/readolog_dropcap]he last couple of weeks here in Police State USA saw massive protests in response to the death of Eric Garner, a man who was killed when an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold during his arrest that ended his life…all for selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. Americans in the tens of thousands marched against police brutality in New York, D.C. and several other major cities saw protests as well. Police brutality protesters even staged a mass “die-in” at the Mall of America, shutting down parts of it this past weekend.
Two police officers were also shot in Brooklyn during an anti-terrorism drill, supposedly in revenge for Garner, followed by another officer shot in Florida. Calls for gun control (that’s for guns in the hands of the people, not police) predictably followed.
Things are spinning wildly out of control on the police state front to the point that one might think things have always been this bad, when in fact, it’s more like a downward spiral we’ve been sliding on for several decades now, but most especially since 9/11.
Take for example this article in the August 31, 1967 Des Moines Register.
The Gallup Poll surveyed 1,626 adults in 317 areas across America and found that a mere six percent thought police brutality even existed where they lived.
Only six percent. In addition, an overwhelming 77 percent of people polled said they had a “great deal” of respect for police.
Wow. In my whole lifetime, I’ve never known a time where police respect was that high.
Interestingly, the poll was taken after the 1967 Detroit Riot which began on July 23rd that year. The riot had been the costliest in American history at the time, with a price tag of $1 billion and 43 lives. It took over 17,000 law enforcement officers and federal agents five days to stop. Still, a month later and only six percent polled above thought police brutality existed in their neighborhood.
The poll did note that more black people (14 percent) thought police brutality existed in their area than white people (six percent), but considering what was going on at the time, that number seems low for an event that had been referred to since as, “one of the most violent race riots in American history.”
What a difference a few decades make.
Gallup repeated a similar poll in 1991 (the year before the Rodney King beating and resultant Los Angeles riots) and found that 35% of Americans felt police brutality occurred in their area. The figure went up to 38% by 1999.
By 2005, Gallup found that confidence in police had dropped to a ten-year low.
Wonder what these figures would look like today?
Well, in New York, 74 percent of people polled said police brutality was a “serious problem” back in September. Sixty-eight percent say there is “no excuse” for Eric Garner’s death. Even ex-president and warmonger George W. Bush said the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer responsible for ending Garner’s life was “hard to understand.”
Worse, we can’t even look at the figures for how many people die at the hands of police in this country each year. Why?
Because, even though you can easily find stats on how many cops are shot in the line of duty (31 in 2013), there simply isn’t an ongoing, mandatory database that requires police departments to track use of deadly force by police. The short answer to “How many people are shot by police in America each year?” is “No one knows.”
Some estimates show it could be as high as three people per day losing their lives at the hands of cops here. More than five thousand people have been killed by police since 9/11, prompting Mint Press News’ Katie Rucke to write, “Statistically speaking, Americans should be more fearful of the local cops than ‘terrorists.'” For that matter, police have killed more civilians since 9/11 than the number of soldiers who have died in the Iraq War.
Aside from police using deadly force more and more despite the fact that crime is down overall, their training is teaching our cops that America is a war zone as justification for continued, systematic police state build-up. In fact, just this weekend the NYPD’s union declared the department to officially be a “wartime” police department in response to the two timely police shootings.
On top of that, the Pentagon’s 1033 surplus program, which really began in 1990 under the guise of fighting the war on drugs and became official when Congress passed the 1997 NDAA, has been outfitting police with weapons of war for years now — and the weapons just continue to get more sophisticated and over-the-top as the police state builds.
Cops today are armed to the hilt with mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles designed for far away battlefields, in addition to LRAD sound cannons, “less-than-lethal” ammunition (which can and does still kill), and .50 cal sniper rifles which can be mounted on helicopters for “special occasions” such as shooting down an aircraft. Police these days are also using software with sophisticated algorithms that give citizens a color-coded “threat rating” based on all of our data including our social media posts and purchases in real time.
It’s interesting that conversely, during a period of poor economic conditions and while the Vietnam War war raging on prior to the draft, with periods of riots summer after summer, still Americans felt police brutality was low to virtually non-existent in polls.
Now we live in a highly militarized police state where we don’t even know how many Americans are dying at the hands of police on an average day because — in an era dominated by smart tech and big data — no one is even bothering to keep track.
Maybe none of our officials really want to know…because they don’t want to face the truth.
Who watches the watchers?