Jul 19, 2010

Corruption Within the Ranks

I am by no means an anarchist.  For a nation to survive, it needs to be guided by rational laws, enforced in every situation. That enforcement falls to the men and women who wear the badge - to "enforce the peace."  Yet what happens when those who enforce the law begin to act like bullies?

Numerous stories have risen over the years (and more frequently as time goes on) of officers of the peace who abuse the trust that society has placed upon them.  Just recently, we have heard of officers who tazed an elderly woman, teens, and a person running nude through a baseball stadium.  Some others who have been tazed died as a result.  It is not uncommon these days to find officers who hold themselves above those of us they term "civilian."  As a result, oppression has begun.

An article released by ABC news describes the plight of Anthony Graber, who recorded a plain clothed officer pulling him over, and drawing a gun.  Mr. Graber is now faced with a possible 16 years behind bars as a result.  As the article clearly demonstrates, such incidents are not limited to him alone, and that threats and intimidation are on the rise.  They are used by police against civilians attempting to record their public activities.  This has all the warning signs of oppression within the ranks of those who are entrusted with society's protection.

Now before anyone accuses me of having a general hatred towards the police, please allow me to put those thoughts to rest.  Those who serve with a clear conscience, knowing that they serve the public (not the public serving them) have my utmost respect.  Unfortunately, not all police serve with such an intent.  The following will be two reflections from my own personal experiences, describing the reality of what each every-day American faces.

When I was 18, I was pulled over by the police under the accusation of driving irregularly.  At that time, I was employed at a well known fast food chain, and had just left for the night.  At that store, a receipt was printed showing the hours I worked and when I clocked out.  I pulled out of the parking lot and drove for a half mile when I was suddenly pulled over.  The officers said that they suspected me of driving under the influence and asked me to step out of my vehicle - to which I of course complied.  They then put me through a battery of tests, even a breathalyzer test - of which I passed with flying colors.  I informed them that I had just left work and that I had a receipt to prove this.  They refused to even look at it and went to search my car.  Since there was no alcohol on my breath, they accused me of driving under the influence of drugs, and tossed me into the drunk tank for two hours.  I was cited with a DWI, period.  No citations for speeding, reckless driving, or what have you were levied against me.  While there, I was interrogated, fingerprinted, forced to give a urine sample with an officer watching, and was accused by one of the men on duty of being guilty.  "Hey, I know you!  Sure you're innocent!" the man said while laughing.  After I was released (and met by my parents), we immediately drove my vehicle to a garage to see if there was anything wrong with it (such as a tail light being out) and it was confirmed that there wasn't.  The next morning, my parents took me to a clinic to have a drug test.  It turned up negative. My father then took me to the police station and asked for the charges to be dropped, considering the test results. The police refused.

Thus began two months of stress and worry on our part where I had to show up to court twice.  The first time, the result of drug test the police had taken had not yet returned and I was ordered to come back the following month.  During the second appearance, their test results still had not surfaced and we asked to present our results (the were refused the first time as we were accused of falsifying them).  During a meeting with the prosecutor, he asked me why I was there and dropped the charges. The whole event was an obvious case of police intimidation.  It is interesting to note that the officer in the jail who laughed at me and assumed my guilt was later arrested and convicted for having sex with a minor -  he was the high school's football coach and always had an eye for the cheerleaders.

The second reflection is of a different sort.  In my teens, I trained in Tae Kwon Do (Korean martial arts) and both of my instructors were police (a Sergeant and an Officer). At that time, one of them worked under cover and both had a strong sense of service towards the community which they served.  They taught me self respect, honor, self control, and a love for others.  They were my role models, and people I seriously considered friends.  They would sometimes speak of what they faced day to day, and my respect for police in general grew.  I know they have a very dangerous job.  As a result, I endeavor to thank every officer I meet, and offer them my hand.

Two different situations, two different types of police.  Many point out, and rightly so, that just as every occupation has its good and bad apples, so does the police force.  The difference is, however, that a corrupt business man may fire me, but he cannot take away my freedom.  The police can, and have as they are under the authority of the badge.

Since then, I have had other encounters with police - some good and some not so good.  However, I attempt to remain as calm as possible and give those officers no reason to arrest me.  If they have an attitude, I let it pass over my shoulder.  One thing is for certain, I go out of my way to avoid being in situations where I may end up in their hands.  I simply do not know if the next encounter will be a positive one or not.

I have privately spoken with a few serving officers whom I call friends.  They express a deep concern about the growing power-lust within their ranks.  The attitude within has changed from that of serving the public to that of constant mistrust and a feeling of superiority over them. The term "civilian" is now spoken with contempt.  Those officers I have spoken with have expressed a desire to retire as a result.

Police intimidation and bullying is now an almost every day occurrence. Woe be to the civilian that attempts to protect himself, or dares brush against the offending officer as he or she will be charged with assault.  What worries me more is Obama's attitude towards those who voted him in, and society in general.  He desire to create a civilian force as large and well equipped as the military is terrifying.  His policies reflect those of early Nazi Germany, and with corrupt police serving him, whom will the civilians have to turn to?  Are we soon going to witness America's version of the SS?

In almost every case, I vehemently oppose the ACLU - an organization which has done more then most progressives in tearing down this country.  However, in their support of our rights to record police, they have my full backing.  We as civilians need to have verifiable documentation to present to the courts in case we ever find ourselves in front of a judge on trumped up charges.  Indeed, many cases have been dismissed thanks to such evidence.

If the police are honestly doing their job by serving the public, they should have nothing to worry about when being recorded.  Those who protest the most must have, logically, the most to hide.

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George Washington