By Chuck Baldwin
September 22, 2016
Another unarmed American citizen has been shot and killed by police–this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The frequency of these kinds of shootings is escalating exponentially–and every American citizen should be very concerned about it.
I watched the video, and neither the helicopter video nor the cruiser cam showed definitively what the victim was doing at the moment he was shot and killed. By walking away from the officers, he obviously was not obeying them (since when are police allowed to execute someone for simple, nonviolent disobedience?), but he was clearly unarmed, and his hands were in the air as he slowly walked toward an empty vehicle with his back to the officers. Was he trying to reach into the car? The video is not clear. He was not the subject of a criminal stop. The police were not acting on any arrest warrants. In fact, it seems he wasn’t stopped at all but was approached by police after his vehicle had stalled.
If the officers are judged to be truly justified in this shooting, meaning the officers had to have believed their lives were in imminent danger by virtue of the fact that the victim had the means to inflict harm (such as a gun) and demonstrated aggression in a manner that would cause any reasonable person to believe his or her life was in jeopardy, I will gladly accept that decision (albeit it is extremely difficult to justify killing an unarmed citizen, especially one who is not charging or acting aggressively toward the officers–and police spokesmen in Tulsa readily admit that the victim was unarmed). And if this was an unjustified killing, those officers should be prosecuted as aggressively as any other American citizen would be–even more so as police officers are entrusted with the duty of PROTECTING society, not endangering it.
I’m confident that most shootings by police officers are justified, but, clearly, many of them are NOT. And ONE such shooting is too many. Unfortunately, there are many more than that.
The cold, hard truth is that the number of Americans killed by police officers is at a record high level. For example, in 2013, 773 people were shot and killed by police. In 2014, the number rose to 1,111. In 2015, the number spiked again to 1,207. And so far, police have killed (as of September 20) 842 in 2016, which is on a pace to almost equal 2015 numbers.
Here is the report: Killed By Police
Just how many of these killings were not justified we will never know because the vast majority of unjustified shootings are swept under the carpet by the powers that be, leaving victims’ families to suffer without resolution and with intense resentment against our government and its representatives in law enforcement.
Even more disturbing is the fact that police shootings are largely underreported. Mind you, these statistics do not include police-inflicted deaths by means other than police bullets, such as stun guns and people in police custody.
A Washington Post report published last year states, “‘These [police] shootings are grossly underreported,’ said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement. ‘We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information.’”
Police are only authorized to use deadly force when they fear for their lives or the lives of others and there is an imminent threat to life. This is the same principle of law that governs the conduct of American citizens in general. However, nowadays, running away (or in the Tulsa case, walking away) from a police officer could easily get one shot.
“Running is such a provocative act that police experts say there is a name for the injury officers inflict on suspects afterward: a ‘foot tax.’”
According to FBI statistics, over the past several years, police have killed around 400 people each year. But this stat was achieved in just the first five months of both this year and last. To be sure, many of these killings were completely justified–and even heroic.
The problem is, far too many chiefs of police, sheriffs, county prosecutors, judges, etc., are willing to either 1) not properly and thoroughly investigate police killings or 2) completely look the other way at questionable killings or 3) actually cover up wrongful deaths committed by police. Regardless, all of the above leads to a breakdown of justice and true law and order–and serious distrust on the part of the American citizenry regarding law enforcement agencies and the court system itself.
The Post report notes that for most police departments and sheriff’s offices, a fatal shooting is a rare event (as it should be). However, 19 State and local police agencies seem to have much higher numbers than average of these incidents, including the police departments in Los Angeles, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Bakersfield, California.
See the Washington Post report here: Fatal Police Shootings In 2015 Approaching 400 Nationwide
Over 5,000 American citizens have been shot and killed by police since 09/11/01. This is approximately the same number of U.S. soldiers killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Based on actual statistical data, you and I are 58 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than we are by a Muslim terrorist. Please let that figure sink in.
“Despite far fewer officers dying in the line of duty compared with American citizens, police departments are not only increasing their use of protective and highly volatile gear, but are increasingly setting aside a portion of their budget to invest in new technology such as drones, night vision goggles, remote robots, surveillance cameras, license plate readers and armored vehicles that amount to unarmed tanks.”
See this report here: US Police Have Killed Over 5,000 Civilians Since 9/11
By contrast to the thousands of people killed by police, in 2013, 33 police officers were shot and killed; in 2014, 49 police officers were shot and killed; and in 2015, 41 police officers were shot and killed. (Source: National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund)
One of the reasons why so many of our police officers and sheriff’s deputies have become so abusive and trigger-happy is due to the training they are receiving. The “us versus them” mentality is much the result of training indoctrination. And, since 9/11 and the advent of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the federal government is mostly responsible for training policies, procedures, philosophies, etc., within State and local police agencies. In fact, most of our local police SWAT teams are trained by U.S. military Special Forces troops. DHS has turned our State and local police agencies into quasi-military units. And it has turned the U.S. citizenry into enemy combatants. I argue that the problems we are having with our police agencies today are the result of the ubiquitous and draconian influence from Washington, D.C.
Plus, think about the manner in which the federal government “bribes” State and local police agencies with all kinds of funding for everything from personnel to tanks and armored carriers, to sophisticated eavesdropping equipment, to military arms and ammunition, to helicopters, ad infinitum. If anything, the American people should be demanding that their local police departments and sheriff’s offices STOP accepting federal funding OF ANY KIND for their agencies. The way it is now, our State and local law enforcement agencies are more beholden to Uncle Sam than they are to the people whom they are supposed to serve. To ask the federal Justice Department to become more involved in local policing is like asking the proverbial fox to guard the proverbial hen house. Do you really want to turn your local police department over to the people who massacred the Branch Davidians?
In addition, in many communities (especially smaller ones) billionaires are allowed to donate unlimited amounts of money–amounting to millions of dollars–to local police departments and sheriff’s offices that, for all intents and purposes, turn local law enforcement agencies into little more than private mercenaries for the mega-rich. This, too, should STOP.
Plus, another major component of this problem is that our local and State police agencies and sheriff’s offices are being militarized. Look at Boston after the marathon bombing. The city was turned instantly into a Nazi-style Police State. People’s homes were invaded without warrant; people were manhandled; police dogs were turned loose on people without cause; guns by the hundreds were pointed at the people of Boston by police. No occupying military force in the world was any more efficient at locking down a large city as were the police agencies of the city of Boston and the State of Massachusetts.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department are all but forcing local and State police agencies to accept military equipment, tanks, attack helicopters, machine guns, and more. Of course, most local police agencies are ALL TOO HAPPY to receive this military hardware. In 2013 alone, the Pentagon gave half a billion dollars of military gear to local police agencies. They are supplying suggested training procedures, complete with lists of the people whom they (Washington, D.C.) consider “dangerous.” And more and more often, the people listed are people just like you and me: you know, people who believe in the Constitution; people who are pro-life; people who voted for Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, et al.
Most of the intelligence that police agencies receive comes from the DHS Fusion centers. Reading these memos is like reading the propaganda being spewed out by the radical, ultra-left wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). And in truth, much of the information that the Fusion centers distribute are carbon copies of SPLC propaganda.
Policemen training their weapons on the public has become commonplace nowadays. Even many minor incidents will often result in SWAT teams being deployed. In fact, Eastern Kentucky University professor Peter Kraska documents research showing, “There has been more than a 1,400% increase in the total number of police paramilitary deployments, or callouts, between 1980 and 2000. Today, an estimated 45,000 SWAT-team deployments are conducted yearly among those departments surveyed; in the early 1980s there was an average of about 3,000.”
See Kraska’s report here: Militarization And Policing–Its Relevance To 21st Century
Has violent crime increased 1,400 percent during that time? Not at all. In fact, for the last several years, violent crime has been decreasing to the point that currently it is at record lows. So, how can the need for SWAT teams increase by 1,400 percent? It is the result of Washington, D.C., deliberately militarizing our police agencies. Give them military equipment, weapons, training, etc., and they will start acting like soldiers, not policemen.
A recent example of excessive use of force and the police-state mentality was prominently displayed in Boynton Beach, Florida. After questioning why the officers were ordering them around and starting to video record the officers during a traffic stop, the policemen became enraged, began physically assaulting the young men, and one officer pointed his pistol at them threatening to immediately shoot them. Granted, the young men acted rudely and disrespectfully. But since when in America is cockiness and rudeness a potential death sentence?
But the worst part of the story came afterward when the chief of police issued a statement defending the conduct of the officers. Chief Jeffrey Katz viewed the videotape (recorded by a passenger in the car) and said the following: “When I watch this video, I don’t see a car full of young men who are behaving in a manner consistent with FEAR OF THE POLICE.” (Emphasis added)
Ladies and gentlemen, that is not the statement of an American peace officer; that is the statement of a Nazi Brown Shirt. This is what happens when Washington, D.C., turns our local and State law enforcement officers into quasi-military units from a national police force. The police chief and his officers were angry that the young men didn’t FEAR them enough.
So, that’s it? We are supposed to FEAR the police? Really? Then, pray tell, whom are the police supposed to fear? My father didn’t teach me to fear the police. He taught me to respect the police. And he taught me that the police were my friends. He did not teach me that I had to fear for my life every time I’m pulled over for a traffic stop. And that’s not the way that Sheriff Cliff Arnold’s deputies in La Porte County, Indiana, behaved while I was growing up.
This escalation of aggressive police behavior prompted me to ask my constitutional attorney son to give a lecture on “Police Contact: How To respond.” We have that lecture on DVD. This presentation deals directly with the “Dos and Don’ts” when contacted by a police officer. Tim discusses how to–and how not to–react to police traffic stops and other contacts. He clearly and thoroughly shows citizens their rights and duties under the Constitution and why it is so important that citizens understand and USE these rights. It is an EXCELLENT presentation. And what you do NOT know about this presentation can, and very likely will, hurt you.
Find the presentation here, “Police Contact: How To Respond.”
Here’s another true story: here in Montana, a small town police officer who is assigned to the traffic division was asked to speak to a local church group. Mostly he gives out traffic citations for minor violations. As he began his remarks, he said, “I am a cop; I work every day among the dregs of society.” Really? People who get parking tickets and speeding tickets are the “dregs” of society? That, my friends, is the mark of an unfolding police-state mentality. And, remember, this is from the heart and lips of a professing Christian.
It all begins with philosophy. Again, the philosophy being drilled into police officers today is that of an “us versus them” mentality. In the eyes of a Police State, we are not citizens to be protected; we are enemy targets who are guilty until proven innocent. Plus, the phrase that we hear constantly repeated today by law enforcement personnel and spokesmen is “the safety of the officer.”
Wait a minute! The sworn duty of a police officer is to obey the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights), which is designed to protect the rights, liberties, and peace of the American people. The role of the police officer is to protect the safety of the public. Any man or woman who volunteers to put on a badge should be consciously willing to put his or her life on the line to protect the public. That’s what their job is all about. And no one forces them to take this risk; they take it of their own volition. Of course the men and women of law enforcement want to go home at the end of their shifts. But so do the people of our communities. The lives of police officers are no more or no less valuable than the lives of the rest of the people who live in their communities. Simply donning a police uniform gives no more worth to the wearer than putting on a nurse’s uniform, janitor’s uniform, waitress’s uniform, delivery man’s uniform, or any other person’s clothing–uniformed or not.
Another remedy is the citizens of our respective counties should demand that the State legislatures and/or county commissions establish an independent Citizen Review Committee charged with the task of investigating EVERY incident of alleged police abuse and especially EVERY incident involving a police shooting.
Quite frankly, we can no longer trust the internal affairs division of our respective police agencies to adequately police their own. This Citizen Review Committee should have the financial ability to hire independent private investigators to examine these incidents. And the committee should be given teeth. It should be mandatory that the prosecutor’s office prosecute an officer if the committee investigation finds probable cause–in much the same way that a grand jury’s indictment is binding. It would be even better if an independent prosecutor was assigned to these type cases. In many counties, blatant cronyism between the prosecutor’s office and the city police departments and county sheriff’s office is way too common. The money should be taken from the annual budget appropriated for the actual police agencies. After all, providing accountability to the public is as much a part of a police department’s responsibility as providing a squad car or K-9 unit to police personnel. Without accountability and the respect of the public, all of the police personnel and equipment in the world is not sufficient to keep the peace.
Sadly, police agencies and county attorney’s offices have a dismal record of thoroughly investigating police shootings (or even police brutality charges). Mostly the word of the officer is accepted almost without question. Plus, it is common knowledge that many officers carry “throw down” weapons to circumvent incrimination. Furthermore, police officers are seldom willing to testify against a fellow officer–even when they know the officer has committed a crime.
In addition, the American people should demand that appropriate tax dollars be allotted for the Office of Public Defender (OPD). In most states and districts, the OPD is one of the most underfunded entities of all. And the OPD is the one office at the courthouse that is constitutionally-mandated. Yet most “law and order” conservatives look at the OPD with disdain–but somehow they still refer to themselves as “constitutionalists.” Too many people have the attitude that someone is guilty simply because he or she was arrested and, therefore, must PROVE THEMSELVES INNOCENT.
Yet one of the bedrock principles of American law and justice is that a person is INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY in a court of law. Tragically, this principle has been all but lost in the thinking of many of our citizens today. It demonstrates a serious lack of understanding and appreciation for liberty itself.
A civil government–any civil government–should NEVER be allowed to take away an individual’s liberty without the strictest requirements. The old adage is still true: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent man suffer.” (William Blackstone) Americans need to start defaulting to liberty in their thinking once again. This was the Spirit of ’76. For so-called conservatives and Christians to demonstrate a “prove your innocence” mentality reveals that they have lost all appreciation and respect for individual liberty and the due process of law.
The county prosecutor’s office has virtually unlimited monies to prosecute people. In fact, the prosecution and imprisonment of the American people has become a HUGELY PROFITABLE BUSINESS. The confiscation of properties and assets of accused (sometimes accusation is all that is required to confiscate a person’s wealth and property) and convicted persons often serves as a significant revenue stream for many cities and counties–as do traffic citations.
Anyone who thinks speed laws are mostly for “safety” is seriously naïve. It’s mostly about generating revenue for the various State and local police agencies, prosecutor’s offices, courts, etc. Most police agencies and prosecutor’s offices directly benefit from speeding tickets and from people being arrested and sent to jail. Not to mention the incentives that come from Washington, D.C.
A properly constituted and funded OPD is the second to the last line of peaceful defense against government overreach and abuse. The last line of peaceful defense against government overreach and abuse is the citizen jury. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that a sizeable percentage of people serving time behind bars today are there unjustly. They were convicted by overzealous prosecutors trying to make a name for themselves (not to mention career advancement) by circumstantial evidence and by the lack of an adequate defense.
Public defenders are pressured to “go along with the system” and not backlog the court by rendering a thorough and vigorous defense of their clients. The weight of city hall often threatens to come down hard on honest public defenders that won’t roll over for the prosecutor’s office. Judges, likewise, pressure public defenders to “hurry up” with their defense procedures as all of these myriad laws (especially drug laws) enacted over the years have resulted in most courts being seriously backlogged with cases. And in the minds of most of these “public servants” the answer is for the public defenders to not bog down the system by being too detailed and thorough in the defense of their clients.
It’s a rigged system, folks! And it’s not rigged in favor of you and me; it’s rigged in favor of the police and prosecutors. This reality makes it far too easy for police to literally “get away with murder.” Fully authorized and functional citizen review committees and adequately funded (and appreciated) Office of Public Defender and police departments and sheriff’s offices that are NOT beholden to the federal government (or billionaire donors) could make a tremendous difference in restoring accountability to our police agencies and public trust in our police departments and prosecutor’s offices.
As police killings rise–and as public distrust and anger rise along with it–a rational and reasoned response becomes obligatory. It begins with people, especially our conservative, Christian, Republican friends, recognizing the current holes in our justice system and returning to common sense, constitutional principles. If this doesn’t happen soon, political agitators will create a climate of violence and lawlessness that will only produce more of the abuse and misuse of law that is already taking place. And this accomplishes nothing, except making it easier for big-government usurpers to justify themselves in their attempt to encroach upon more and more of our liberties.
© 2016 Chuck Baldwin – All Rights Reserved