How American Police Have Become Lethal Killing Machines…


Having spent ten years of my ear­ly life as a law enforce­ment offi­cer, and after leav­ing law enforce­ment in 1991, I spent my entire life true to the virtues of the rule of law.
I did not need to be told that a life of crime was not a good idea, that under­stand­ing has been a part of my DNA.
In the years since I left the Jamaica Constabulary Force, I have seen up close just how much of a lie we were told as cops serv­ing in Jamaica, that cops in America were paragons of virtue, who treat­ed peo­ple with respect, “yes sir no sir.”
It is remark­able that hav­ing seen up close how police rou­tine­ly frame peo­ple for offens­es they nev­er com­mit­ted, with­out bat­ting an eye, as to the con­se­quences those false arrests will have on that per­son­’s life, I am for­ev­er changed about how I view American police.

As bad as my ini­tial per­cep­tions were dur­ing the ’90s, what obtains today in American polic­ing has changed by leaps and bounds and not for the bet­ter.
Many years ago a for­mer col­league and I were hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion in the Bronx, he asked me“how could you be so crit­i­cal of police when we were our­selves, police offi­cers”?
Without think­ing about it I asked him, ” Is this the way we did polic­ing?
Dillo, as we affec­tion­al­ly called him looked me in the eye and then dropped his gaze.….…“Nah”, he said and turned away.
My ide­al­ism around law enforce­ment is the anthe­sis of what we are wit­ness­ing in American polic­ing.
We entered law enforce­ment with the desire to help peo­ple, to be there for those who could not defend them­selves.
Those are the prin­ci­ples on which I entered law enforce­ment, but the guid­ing prin­ci­ple that has guid­ed my career has been the prin­ci­ple that I learned on enter­ing detec­tive train­ing.
There is no greater hon­or than to be tasked with bring­ing to jus­tice the murderer/​s of the inno­cent”.

There were no pulling motorists over and fish­ing to find some­thing for which to tick­et them or worse.
There was no racial ani­mus that could cause us to abuse our fel­low cit­i­zens, or worse cause us to take their free­dom or their life away.
There were no plant­i­ng drugs in my world, no fal­si­fy­ing reports, no telling lies while under oath. In fact, our train­ing was cen­tered on the premise that when an offend­er com­mits an offense he does so against the state and not against us. Those prin­ci­ples were geared at stop­ping us from tak­ing things per­son­al­ly. That con­cept is self-evi­dent in the way police all across America car­ry out their duties.
When an offi­cer per­son­al­izes an offend­er’s crime or offense, he is liable to abuse that offend­er’s rights. He is liable to get him­self in trou­ble in cir­cum­stances where police offi­cers are held account­able for their actions.

The dif­fer­ence in America, is that hard­ly are police offi­cers held account­able regard­less of the bla­tan­cy of their ille­gal actions.
No one expects that we sim­ply throw our offi­cers to the wolves when they make hon­est mis­takes in the heat of the moment in which they have to make snap deci­sions.
However, it can­not be that [qual­i­fied immu­ni­ty] be used to pro­tect police offi­cers from the con­se­quences of their actions when they vio­late their oath.
According to one def­i­n­i­tion; Qualified immu­ni­ty is designed to pro­tect all but the plain­ly incom­pe­tent or those who know­ing­ly vio­late the law. Law enforce­ment offi­cers are enti­tled to qual­i­fied immu­ni­ty when their actions do not vio­late a clear­ly estab­lished statu­to­ry or con­sti­tu­tion­al right.
Unfortunately for Black and Brown Americans, it has become clear­er by the day that police are inca­pable of vio­lat­ing clearly estab­lished statu­to­ry or con­sti­tu­tion­al rights.

It is an ever-chang­ing land­scape in which the afore­men­tioned bla­tan­cy of police actions is excused, tol­er­at­ed, and explained away, rather than inves­ti­gat­ed, flushed out, and exposed in the pub­lic’s inter­est.
The gen­er­al idea in a democ­ra­cy is that the gov­ern­ment is answer­able to the peo­ple, not the oth­er way around.
The American polic­ing land­scape is telling a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. It gives police abnor­mal pow­ers to sup­press and abuse cit­i­zens, essen­tial­ly mak­ing police over­lords rather than ser­vants of the peo­ple.
Through a mas­sive mil­i­ta­riza­tion and pro­tec­tions from account­abil­i­ty, police have become more abra­sive, abu­sive, and much more lethal.
It is a trag­ic state of affairs that many cit­i­zens are more ter­ri­fied of the police than they are of ordi­nary crim­i­nals.
Police fire a bar­rage of bul­lets into the bod­ies of peo­ple in their beds, peo­ple who are in dis­tress, unarmed peo­ple on their knees, peo­ple strapped in their cars, peo­ple sit­ting in their own homes eat­ing ice­cream and watch­ing Television. They mur­der old and young and every age in between.
Police have become so lethal that even chil­dren are ter­ri­fied of them.

There are some tell-tale prac­tices that American cops engage in, that are evi­dent in their engage­ments, par­tic­u­lar­ly with black cit­i­zens. They are either taught to use them, or have seen them used with­out con­se­quence, & have co-opt­ed them across the board.
(1) A bunch of cops, all yelling dif­fer­ent com­mands at a sub­ject. This tac­tic con­fus­es the sub­ject and makes it impos­si­ble for the sub­ject to be com­pli­ant.
It is used as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for assault­ing the sub­ject & even to jus­ti­fy killing the sub­ject if they deem it expe­di­ent to do so.
For exam­ple in Houston Texas, police Chief Art Acevedo has used non-com­pli­ance with police com­mands as a rea­son police use lethal force killing a sus­pect, this is com­mon-place in Houston and oth­er police depart­ments.

(2)Even after fir­ing sev­er­al bul­lets into a sus­pec­t’s body and he is on the ground, police con­tin­ue to shout at the mor­tal­ly wound­ed sub­ject to get on the ground as a means to jus­ti­fy the lev­el of force they used.
In most instances, the sit­u­a­tion could have been resolved sim­ply by de-esca­lat­ing and being more respect­ful of the indi­vid­ual.

(3)Piling on a sus­pec­t’s body and con­tin­u­al­ly yelling “stop resist­ing”, even as the sus­pect has absolute­ly no means of obey­ing any com­mands.
This tac­tic is used to jus­ti­fy beat­ing the sus­pect and demon­strat­ing who is boss. It also allows them to pile on charges of resist­ing arrest and assault­ing police offi­cers. In many cas­es, they beat on an inno­cent sus­pect and sus­tain injuries that are then blamed on the already abused sus­pect.
The courts have become com­plic­it in these atroc­i­ties, in which police arrest peo­ple for resist­ing arrest when there are no base charges.
How can the resist­ing arrest be val­i­dat­ed by a court when the police had no law­ful rea­son to arrest in the first place.

(4) Firing a bar­rage of bul­lets into a per­son­’s body when the use of a taser could have suf­ficed or no force at all.
They then some­times pull out gloves and pre­tend to give first aid after lit­er­al­ly hav­ing just killed anoth­er human being.
The sys­tem allows for this kind of killing-field where police are allowed to fire mul­ti­ple bul­lets into a per­son, lit­er­al­ly ensur­ing they are dead when a sin­gle shot would have inca­pac­i­tat­ed the per­son.
There are [cop-oligists] who have argued that a per­son shot can still be dan­ger­ous. To them I ask, have you ever been shot?

(5) The prac­tice of mul­ti­ple cops fir­ing their weapons into the body of anoth­er human being real­ly became a thing.…. after NYPD killer cops bru­tal­ly mur­dered an unarmed Amadou Diallo. They fired a total of forty-one (41) bul­lets at the unarmed man, then false­ly claimed that they thought his wal­let was a gun.
To jus­ti­fy that egre­gious slaugh­ter, the New York Police Department and its enablers coined a new term to jus­ti­fy the wan­ton, reck­less, and depraved indif­fer­ent use of lethal force. That term was (“con­ta­gious fir­ing”). That term not only worked in get­ting the mur­der­ers acquit­ted, but it also became a new nor­mal, a gigan­tic shift in the goal­post as to what is accept­able in police use of force on black peo­ple.
The four depraved mur­der­ers — Sean Carroll, 37, Edward McMellon, 27, Kenneth Boss, 28, and Richard Murphy, 27 –nev­er faced jus­tice for what was the unmit­i­gat­ed slaugh­ter of an inno­cent man.

(6) Police no longer use real de-esca­la­tion tac­tics to deal with peo­ple with men­tal issues or oth­ers who may be in men­tal dis­tress. They do the bare min­i­mum to try to cre­ate an illu­so­ry effect that they tried to deesca­late, but their actions gen­er­al­ly fur­ther agi­tate the dis­tressed per­son. Again, a bunch of cops point­ing guns at the sub­ject and yelling at the top of the lungs, all bark­ing dif­fer­ent com­mands.
These tac­tics end up with the death of peo­ple going through real emo­tion­al trau­ma at the hands of police.
This makes it a life and death deci­sion when a fam­i­ly mem­ber decides to call the police for help deal­ing with a dis­traught loved one.
Making that call often­times becomes a bad deci­sion for the fam­i­ly.
Citizens and in par­tic­u­lar black peo­ple, are far bet­ter off, not call­ing the police to their homes at all.

(7) Observance of a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of these police shoot­ings paints a rather stark pic­ture that police are not par­tic­u­lar­ly in the busi­ness of sav­ing lives.
Shockingly, it appears that they are itch­ing to see how they can cre­ate a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for shoot­ing at a sus­pect, even when they are on calls that includ­ed no alle­ga­tions of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing.
This is some­times true across the racial spec­trum but par­tic­u­lar­ly so in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or.
Black & Brown peo­ple are gen­er­al­ly either bad­ly bat­tered and bruised sec­onds after police arrive, or worse, are left bleed­ing out, mere sec­onds after being alive.

Unless there is glar­ing irrefutable evi­dence of police wrong­do­ing, fol­lowed up by mass social action in the streets, courts are will­ing part­ners in these mis­car­riages of jus­tice, so much so that the police do not see a rea­son to care about com­mit­ting them, even when they are being pho­tographed or video­taped.


Mike Beckles is a for­mer Jamaican police Detective cor­po­ral, busi­ness­man, researcher, and blog­ger. 
He is a black achiev­er hon­oree, and pub­lish­er of the blog chatt​-​a​-box​.com. 
He’s also a con­trib­u­tor to sev­er­al web­sites.
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