Speaking of Domestic Enemies

4 10 2009

I’ve written before on the subject of police abuses. More and more frequently, news stories appear which paint a picture of police organizations across the country treating the citizens they allegedly serve as criminals. Here is another horror story from Phoenix, Arizona.

It turns out that a homeowner was forced to react when a stranger crashed into his house through the front window and ran into his child’s bedroom. The homeowner grabbed his gun, held the bad guy at gunpoint, and called the police. The cops arrived while he was still on the phone with 911, so the homeowner’s wife went outside to tell the police that her husband had the bad guy at gunpoint. Somehow, this information didn’t sink in. The first officer through the door shot the homeowner in the back four times, then shot him twice more- in the back- while he lay on the ground.

Another officer came in and told the first cop that he had just shot the homeowner- the completely innocent party who was still on the phone with 911. The 911 recording picked up the police officers as they immediately began to try and cover up what had happened. The first officer was asked where the homeowner’s gun was. He replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t see a gun.” The other officers took the time to let the first officer know that they had his back. All of this was recorded by the 911 operator, as were the innocent victim’s pleas for his family to be spared seeing him like this.

In lieu of providing first aid or doing anything rational, the police dragged the innocent victim by his injured leg out onto the patio in front of the man’s wife and kids. He was then searched, handcuffed, and laid onto the hood of a patrol car- which then drove several houses down the street with the wounded man on the hood. When medical care finally arrived, the victim was transported to the hospital, but the police refused to allow his family to learn anything about his condition. To everyone’s surprise, the homeowner did survive, but will be in pain for the rest of his life as a result of his injuries. A lawsuit is pending.

Despite the evidence of the 911 recordings, the police involved in this fiasco swore that the first officer had been threatened by the homeowner’s gun and had fired in self-defense. I’m sure that explains the multiple gunshot wounds in his back, and the first cop saying that he hadn’t seen a gun. A police department shooting review board decided that the police did not violate department policy in this shooting.

I’ll let that one sink in for a moment.

The police department apparently thinks it is perfectly within department policy for officers to burst into a home and shoot the first black or brown person they see. In the back. The officers in question were not reprimanded or punished in any way. As far as I can tell, they are still working for the Phoenix Police Department.

I would love to say that this sort of behavior is atypical, and that police departments do not routinely cover up for their officers who act in such a fashion. Since I don’t feel like lying, I cannot say this. These abuses are becoming more and more commonplace across the country. The police- who work for us- are treating us like the enemy.

This police behavior worries me (and it should bother everyone) because I can see this sort of thing happening where  I live. The local police are not known for their professionalism, but they are known for circling the wagons at the first sign of civilian unhappiness with their actions. This is unacceptable. Police are hired by the public to enforce the laws. Period. Full stop. We, the People, have granted the police broad authority to accomplish this task. Far too many police agencies do not have any sense of responsibility to go along with their authority. It is therefore incumbent upon us- the people who hired them- to enforce responsibility.

I suggest setting up police review boards along the lines of jury duty. Members of the community can be called up to serve for a month on a police review board. This board will examine every complaint against the police during that month, and provide binding decisions. The police department will be required to enact the decisions of the board within 60 days. A criminal court judge would oversee police completion of Board decisions, and apply judicial penalties for noncompliance.

This brings me back to the Four Boxes. This proposed program requires the use of the first three boxes. Use a Soap Box to advocate for this sort of civilian oversight. Use the Ballot Box to vote for this sort of program and for politicians who support it. Use the Jury Box to enforce compliance with the program. If we do all of that, we might be able to avoid opening that Fourth Box.

If we keep on going the way things are going now, we get closer and closer to opening that Fourth Box. Nobody wants that.

Current status: Miffed

Current music: Lothlorien by Enya



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