Monday, July 11, 2016

This is what is wrong with America today

Look at this photo. This is 28-year-old Ieshia Evans passively opposing the Baton Rouge Police Department at a protest march. The cops were pushing and antagonizing the peaceful crowd, and the situation was getting tense. Ieshia calmly approached to passively object to the police threat. She was promptly arrested for no reason.

This is what is wrong with America today.

Cops dressed like RoboCop, in full military-style assault gear, confronting a passive, unarmed woman as if she is a threat – and then arresting her for no reason.

Our society is teetering on the brink of civil collapse because of the rise of the police state. Americans are no longer protected by police. They are assaulted by them. 

Cops shoot unarmed people daily. The truth is, cops kill nearly double the number of whites as blacks annually. Shockingly, nearly half of all people killed annually by cops are unarmed.

Why? What is happening?

It’s a combination of things.

1) Cops are scared to death. When I was a cop in metro-Atlanta in the 1980s, we weren’t taught to fear the public. Today, cops are trained from day one to fear everyone they encounter. Every man, woman and child is a threat. The training – ostensibly a model believed to enhance police survival – teaches them that we are all out to kill them. Recruits are taught that everyone is dangerous. It’s an us against them mentality.  Cops call the general public “civilians,” as if they’re military. They’re not. They’re civilian employees of the taxpayers.

When I was a cop, we were taught at police academy – and reminded when we went to work – that the public trusts us to make things better not worse. Our commanders used to say, “It’s your job to make things better. Don’t go into a situation and inflame it. Defuse it.” Today cops inflame every situation they encounter because of their training. (See # 3, later.)

2) Cops today view themselves as “the law,” rather than servants of the law. Cops have limited jurisdiction to arrest people. Their job is to make arrests when the cop believes that someone has broken the law. It requires probable cause. A cop must believe a crime has been committed and that the person being arrested likely committed it. In the case of petty crimes, the cop actually has to see the crime committed. Period. They’re not allowed to give legal advice. They’re not allowed to settle civil disputes. They’re not allowed to arrest people without cause and not allowed to arrest people for breaking laws that don’t exist. Of course, they do this constantly. Cops now view themselves as the arbiters of all things legal. An example: One time I was entering a courthouse and a cop, out of the blue, looks at me and says, “Take your hat off.” Now, there is no law requiring we take our hats off entering a courthouse. There is a rule that you can’t wear a hat in a courtroom, unless for religious reasons, but not just in a courthouse. I looked at the cop and said, “No.” He got instantly furious. I said to him, “You’re job is to uphold the law, not rules you make up in your head.” He insisted that I join him in the office of the presiding judge, whereupon the judge nicely told the cop he was wrong.

Cops often overreach beyond their authority, such as cops includes being called out to disputes between landlords and tenants, ordering the tenant to pay a landlord money, when in fact any judge would say the opposite. Cops trying to unilaterally enforce divorce decrees and child visitation orders, which they have no jurisdiction to do. Cops enforcing zoning ordinances, which they have no authority to do, is commonplace. Cops ordering people to do or not do things which are not even in the criminal code. I remember one case where a cop showed up at a hotel and told people not to use the diving board, etc. It’s bizarre. Cops want to micro-manage the lives of every American.

This becomes dangerously problematic when it comes to criminal investigations. Cops often make snap judgments about who committed a crime and then view themselves as judge, jury and executioner. They view themselves as having the right to destroy the lives of those they arrest.

When cops shoot down unarmed people, it’s because they view themselves as having the right to do so. Cops often bend the rules, falsify evidence, make mountains out of molehills all with the intent to do as much damage to the life of the person they are targeting as possible. Why? Because they believe the person deserves it, and they view themselves as entitled to do this damage.

3) Cops are trained these days to inflame every situation they are involved in. How could this happen? It’s simple. When I was a cop we were taught the “public safety” model. Our job was to keep the peace, to make no arrest unless absolutely necessary. When we encountered people, it was our job to ask questions, lots of questions, to discern what was going on. When dealing with people, be kind and polite and soft-spoken. Don’t be a pushover, but be professional at all times. I arrested many people who had committed serious felonies with “please” and “thank you.” Politeness often defused a tense situation. 

When I encounter older cops who were taught this training model, I am always impressed. They are sober, reasonable, realistic, professional cops who know their job and do it well. They don’t lie in their reports and they don’t lie on the witness stand. I have considerable admiration for them.

Not so the younger cops. Today, cops are taught what is called the “command and control” model. No longer are cops taught to arrive at a call and ask questions. It’s that simple. They’re taught to arrive and put everyone on the ground, no matter how young or old, infirm, or innocent. Cops arrive barking orders, hands on their guns, telling everyone to get down as if everyone is an armed felon. Guess what? People react with strong opposition to that. And they object. They refuse. Then they’re taken down violently as “non-compliant.” Look at any police report today and you will see that word: “non-compliant.” In short, someone refused to be talked to or be treated like a criminal. The second you don’t submit to a cop’s demands, you are notched up as worthy of being kicked to the ground and hog-tied and even shot. I don’t care how law-abiding you are, the cops will take you down. They are taught they are justified in knocking you down because you were non-compliant and questioned their “command and control.”

Interestingly, the late United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – a very pro-cop judge – wrote in many opinions that he took issue with this style of policing. He said he believed our nation’s founders wouldn’t have tolerated this treatment by cops for a second, either.

This is at the root of the problem. Cops think they have the right to control everyone and issue commands that must be obeyed. They don’t. If you tell them that, they will bow up and become hostile – even violently so. They call this beating on innocent, but non-compliant, people an “attitude adjustment.” They will kick you to the ground, slam you to the pavement, injure you badly, and then hog-tie you like an animal and then chuckle to each other, “I gave him an attitude adjustment.”

Further, cops are taught to lie to us. We are not allowed to lie to them. That’s a crime. The United States Supreme Court has said cops can lie to us to “further an investigation.” So, we’re placed in a position of submission to the cops. Cops are taught to never trust anything we say. They are taught to believe nothing. We are taught we are supposed to respect them and believe everything they say, especially when they’re on the witness stand. I’ve said for 20 years - you wanna see a cop lie? Put his hand on the Bible and then have swear him to tell the truth. Now sit back and watch the lies come out.

4) Cops now believe they are superheroes. It’s true. After 9/11, politicians lauded all initial responders to disasters with hero status.  Cops were no longer public servants, they were an elite superhuman hero. This puffery caused an ever-inflating egotism that is pervasive in all post-9/11 cops all over the USA now. Add to that the command and control mantra and you have super-ego cops thinking they’re above us all. They’re akin to Superman.

This causes a complete disregard for the rule of law. Cops do what they want, when they want, and then get pissed off when you call them on it.

5) Most cops are stupid. It’s the truth. Most cops go through – and this will shock you – from between four to 18 weeks of training at police academy. Much of that time is spent teaching cop wannabes not to shoot themselves in the leg or foot when they’re drawing their pistols. When you read stories about the number of cops being shot in the USA annually, dig deeper. Most of these are self-inflicted shootings of their own leg or foot. It’s true!

That’s right! Imagine, the cop with all the military hardware who is barking at you to get on the ground for no reason may have had as little as one month’s training! No wonder they’re out of control. 

Cops are usually high school graduates. Some departments, such as Denver Police Department, have raised standards and actively seek college graduates, but most departments don’t. Why? Money. You can pay a kid with a high school diploma a lot less than a fully-formed adult with a college degree. This results in a lesser quality police force.

Cops very often break the law they’re allegedly trying to uphold. They don’t read people their Miranda Rights. They violate search and seizure laws. They ignore (with the tacit approval of their commanders) case law which requires them to do or not do certain things during an arrest. They are taught to bend the rules to the breaking point to “enforce the law.” Enforce? That’s a problem right there. When you tell someone to “enforce” something, you imply autonomy. It’s the job of the courts to enforce the law, not the cops.

Interestingly, in 21 years of practicing law, I’ve had several run ins with cops in court where they were convinced they had a say-so in the outcome of a case. This is partially because many prosecutors grant to their officers more influence than they deserve. Cops will cross the bar of the courtroom to the area where lawyers and judges conduct business to try and browbeat the lawyers into whatever resolution they want. When I tell a cop, “look, you’re not a lawyer and you’re not a judge. You’re just a witness, go sit down,” they get livid. I once got into a heated confrontation with a cop who actually picked up a court file and tried to tamper with it.

6) Cops now have immunity from being sued. When Ronald Reagan was president, he pushed through legal reform that prevented cops from being sued for violating your civil rights. He said that it was unfair for any cop to have to worry about losing his home merely for violating the rights of the citizens. How inane is that? As a result, cops know they can break the rules – even break the law – when dealing with the public and they’re safe from being sued. When I was a cop, that threat of lawsuit made us circumspect – and it led to us being more careful not to arrest people who didn’t need arresting.  Today cops arrest without fear of reprisals.

7) Our nation is awash in a gun-nut madness that is destroying us all. We are a nation of 330,000,000 people and we own 310,000,000 guns. Many of these guns are high-capacity, high-velocity semi-automatic pistols and rifles which are suitable only for military combat. Because we own them, the cops own them too. It’s like we’re Russia and the cops are China. A constant militarization of our culture puts us all at risk. 

It’s ridiculous. People own guns that don’t need guns. Teens buy guns because of the threat of other teens who have guns. Adults buy guns out of fear of other adults who have guns. The cops buy bigger and badder guns out of fear of the teens and adults who have guns. And just this week, for the first time in history the cops in Dallas used a bomb to kill a suspect. A bomb? We've descended into near anarchy.

As a result, our nation is gripped with a paranoia that is terrifying. The pro-gun types believe in this hero myth of the lone armed American citizen taking down a terrorist or an "active shooter," saving the public from some evil-doer. This is a joke.

The reality is most people can hit their target only 15% of the time – and that’s on a shooting range. The odds are in a high-stress situation that 15% will drop to zero. Think on this: If armed, militarized SWAT teams can’t take down an “active shooter,” what makes you think you can with your gun? You can’t.

So, what’s wrong with our country is not easy to define, but it’s easy to see. We’re a police state where the public and the cops are militarized to the point of open warfare and we’re screaming at each other in such a way that everyone has their finger on the trigger.

This photo shows just how bad the situation is.

(Required by Alabama Law: No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than other lawyers.)

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