22 05 2011

Advanced warning: The subject of this post might make you physically ill. It still makes me sick to my stomach.

At about 9:30 AM on May 5th, Jose Guerena was shaken awake by his frantic wife telling him that there were men with guns in their back yard. Guerena, a Marine Iraq war veteran, rolled out of bed, told his wife to take their youngest child and hide in the closet,then grabbed his rifle and went to see what was going on. Before he even had a chance to take the weapon off “safe”, he was shot 60 times by the Tuscon Police SWAT unit. Guerena’s wife was still frantically talking to the 9-1-1 dispatcher when the cops dragged her out of the closet and pointed their guns at her. She screamed that she had her baby with her, and the police didn’t shoot her. Paramedics were on the scene within 2 minutes, but were not allowed into the house for more than an hour while Guerena bled to death.

Tuscon  was using the SWAT unit to serve search warrants for “multiple households”. Using SWAT to serve search warrants is moronic. This sort of dumbassery has already led to scores of dead citizens, suspects, and police officers all over the country, but police continue to follow this imbecilic practice in order to justify all the neat paramilitary stuff they have on hand. Conducting searches of “multiple households” on a single warrant is of dubious Constitutionality, and Tuscon PD has yet to say why Jose Guerena’s house was targeted. They never did find anything illegal in his house after they shot him down, by the way.

Let’s re-cap: Tuscon PD shot a completely innocent man 60 times in his own house, then let him bleed to death while the paramedics were kept away from the scene for 75 minutes. But it gets worse. The police originally claimed that Guerena fired at them, but later had to retract that statement when it turned out his weapon was still on “safe”. One of the keystone cops in question had fired first, thus sparking all the rest to fill the Marine veteran full of holes. All told, the cops fired 71 times, hitting Guerena with 60 of those shots. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that might have been excessive force. Just a hunch.

Clarence Dupnik, the Police Chief responsible for this execution of an innocent citizen, went on to criticize the media for questioning the legality of the shooting. Allow me to paraphrase: “Nothing to see here, citizen. We’re just doing our jobs, keeping y’all safe from evil-doers. Everyone go back home and keep quiet, and don’t you dare ask any questions about it.”

I don’t know about you folks, but I have a serious problem with the police executing citizens and then pretending the public has no business knowing what actually happened. Given the dismal statistics of the long-since-lost “War on Drugs”, I submit that we (the People) need to start paying a lot more attention to the actions of those we pay to enforce our laws. In similar cases around the country over the last couple of decades, the police officers involved were never even reprimanded for murdering a member of the public they allegedly serve. I predict something similar will be the result here. The “internal investigation”- which is not subject to public review- will determine that the officers acted “in accordance with department policy”. Nothing to see here. Move along- or else.

Our law-enforcement agencies are increasingly treating the public they supposedly serve as the enemy. They sneeringly refer to us as “civilians”- despite the fact that they are also civilians. Police agencies and their agents are not above the law- at least, they aren’t supposed to be in this country. Incidents like this one- which, let us remember, ended up with the police murdering an innocent man- only serve to underscore the increasing divide between the police and the public. In online discussions of this particular incident, far too many people claiming to be police are defending the officers involved. Unless you have completely lost all traces of humanity, this murder by the police is completely indefensible. There is no excuse for this.

Let us look at the end result of allowing the police to continue to treat the public as enemies. I don’t do drugs. I have a license to carry a concealed weapon, which means I have passed a thorough background check. I have passed several more intense background checks for my work with the US Navy. I have served my country in the Armed Forces, and am permanently disabled as a result. Despite all this, if my house were attacked under similar circumstances while I was home, the result would probably be the same. The media would then be fed a line of bullshit about the “assault rifle” (actually a semi-automatic hunting rifle), pistol,  prescription drugs, and the case of ammunition they would find after searching the premises. The impression would be that a dangerous criminal had been taken off the streets. The fact that my wife would undoubtedly win the ensuing lawsuit would be of little comfort to me. And yet, this exact situation has been happening for years. Something has gone very wrong in this country.

What can we (the People) do about it? Glad you asked. First, make a stink about crap like this. Every time the police end up shooting a citizen, demand an impartial, transparent review. Write letters and emails to your city council, mayor, police chief, and state legislators. Make sure the press is kept informed. We grant the police a lot of power to be used in our name, we should make sure they’re held accountable for the uses of that power.

Next, vote. Remember which local officials are a little too cozy with the police and vote the bastards out of office. Do the same thing for district attorneys who fail to indict police for illegal behavior. Make sure you tell all your friends and neighbors to do likewise. The only way to retain (or regain) control of our police agencies is to put pressure on the elected officials who control them. Run for office yourself, if that’s what it takes.

If those two options don’t work, take the bastards to court. Public officials are supposed to represent the public’s interest. If they fail to do their jobs, take ’em to court. Another court-related option involves jury duty. Make a point of voting your conscience if you’re selected for a jury. This is one of the most powerful votes you have, as a citizen. Make it count.

If nothing else works, we’ll be left with only one option. It isn’t a good option, but it’s better than being relegated to the status of serfs. Armed resistance. I really hope some policy-makers are made aware of this post, because they have the power to prevent any such uprising by keeping a tighter rein on the police. If they fail to keep the police under control, the public could be forced to protect themselves against the police with force. Nothing good happens after that, so let’s get ahead of the game by making a stink about it now.

Because, no matter how you look at it, the current situation really stinks, and ignoring the smell won’t make it get any better.

Current status: Alarmed

Current music: Secrets by One Republic