By Robert A. Vella
Psychologists and sociologists have known for a very long time that the stressful duties of police officers can trigger overaggressive responses. It’s why good police instruction is designed to prepare officers for such circumstances. Not everyone is emotionally and physically suited to police work. It requires special qualifications, and that’s why the screening of applicants is so crucial for law enforcement organizations. However, that intrinsic problem isn’t the primary cause of the pervasive and systematic police misconduct which sparked two weeks of nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd.
In 1971, President Nixon announced his “War on Drugs” campaign which initiated a decades-long culture change in the nation’s police forces. The intent was to stop the urban violence surrounding the illegal drug trade in America’s impoverished cities, but the campaign completely ignored the underlying issue of racial and economic inequality plaguing the U.S. In 1997, the 1033 program was enacted under the National Defense Authorization Act which greatly increased the transfer of military weapons and equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. Along with that weaponry came training on how to use it and a fundamental sea-change in police perspectives. Instead of local-born police personnel having close ties to the community, officers were recruited from across country. They began to see themselves as part of an elite group; and, even worse, they began to see the community they were policing as any military force would – that is, as the enemy.
This militarization of the police (see: The Militarization Of Local Police Has Been Decades In The Making) coincided with another profound cultural change in America. After the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party was profoundly transformed by two hardcore right-wing insurgencies – the fanatically anti-government Tea Party movement of 2010, and the dangerously fascist and racist supporters of Donald Trump in 2016. Somewhere along the line, police culture began to merge with the radical ideology of the GOP (which also harbored the extremism of Christian fundamentalism). They perceived their common enemy to be everyone outside their exclusive, self-identified group – blacks, other ethnic minorities, poor people, pluralists, secularists, democrats, environmentalists, and especially egalitarians.
But, such a narrow self-identity which reviles a majority of the population risks a powerful backlash; and, that’s what we’re seeing right now.
Amid a week of widespread unrest, 74% of U.S. citizens reported they view Floyd’s death as a sign of a more pervasive racial injustice issue and that it was not an isolated incident, according to a ABC News/Ipsos poll published Friday.
The survey also found that 66% of Americans disapprove of Republican President Donald Trump’s handling of the response to Floyd’s death. The president drew backlash after saying he would use military force to quell protests if state governors do not take necessary measures to safeguard their residents.
Here’s today’s news. Of special note is President Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany at the same time that Vladimir Putin is sending more Russian troops to its western borders. Coincidence? I think not.
On Monday, riot police supported by both National Guard troops and other federal agencies rousted peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so President Donald Trump could walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op. Trump’s understanding of the protesters — and their anger with America’s longstanding problems with racism and police brutality — appears exceedingly limited. He described himself as “your president of law and order” and warned that the nation was “gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, or, arsonists, looters, criminals.”
But the nation’s top military leaders have a different perspective. In a series of striking critiques this week, senior retired military officers including former Secretary of Defense and retired Gen. James Mattis spoke out forcefully and unequivocally against the president. This is not a disagreement over policy, but rather an indictment of the commander in chief’s leadership and competency at a critical moment for the nation. For senior retired military officers to level such criticism against a serving president is unprecedented and signals a true constitutional crisis over American civil-military relations.
The Pentagon has told National Guardsmen deployed to the nation’s capital not to use firearms or ammunition, and has issued orders to send home active-duty troops that the Trump administration amassed outside the city in recent days, a sign of de-escalation in the federal response to protests in the city.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper made the decision to disarm the guard without consulting the White House, after President Trump ordered a militarized show of force on the streets of Washington to quell demonstrations that were punctured by an episode of looting Sunday, two senior administration officials said. Trump had encouraged the National Guard to be armed.
Amid heightened racial tensions spilling over due to protests against the death of George Floyd, the United States Marine Corp has banned all depictions of the Confederate battle flag at its installations.
The order comes as nationwide protests sparked by Floyd’s death, some of which have turned violent, have prompted some mayors and governors to remove Confederate statues and displays from public areas, amid a racially-charged debate over police brutality.
On Thursday, it was announced that Confederate monuments would be removed from Indianapolis and Richmond, Virginia. There had been earlier removals in Alexandria, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama.
The Rev. Robert Wright Lee, a descendant of Robert E. Lee, backed the monument’s removal, telling reporters: “There are more important things to address than just a statue, but this statue is a symbol of oppression.”
DENVER, June 5 (Reuters) – A United States District Court Judge ordered Denver police on Friday to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” force such as flash grenades against protesters in the city.
The temporary injunction is in response to a local lawsuit filed on Thursday in the Denver District Court by protesters complaining about excessive force used by officers during public demonstrations following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
The death of Houston native George Floyd during his arrest for a non-violent offense has touched off national protests against the use of force by police.
(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday, prosecutors said, after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester in recent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, who surrendered Saturday morning, pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault. They were released without bail.
At a news conference Saturday, District Attorney John Flynn said the officers “crossed a line.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — A man running for election supervisor in Pinellas County is asking the Orange-Osceola state attorney to pursue charges against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, alleging he voted illegally in two Florida elections.
A search of Chauvin’s voter status in Florida shows he registered to vote Republican in Orange County at his Windermere-area address in January 2016. His registration is active. Election records show he voted in the 2016 and 2018 general elections.
The coronavirus appears to be in retreat in regions that moved decisively to contain it after being hit hard, including New York and New Jersey. But the virus is persisting — and, in some places, spreading aggressively — in parts of the South, Midwest and West, including in states that were among the last to impose shutdowns and the first to lift them.
Data compiled by The Washington Post shows that 23 states, as well as Washington and Puerto Rico, have seen an increase in the rolling 7-day average of coronavirus cases compared with the previous week. Most have registered an increase of 10 percent or more.
Now, public health officials across the nation are warily eyeing caseloads and hospitalizations to see if there is a spike in infections resulting from mass protests against racism and police violence.