Op-Ed by Claire Bernish
United States — Lurched back and forth in the ever-quickening spiral of an American empire circling the drain, we — as a people — have chosen battle lines on nearly every issue from politics to foreign policy, domestic surveillance to policing.
Thrust back into national focus, the last issue — policing in the U.S. — might even surpass in contention the ongoing race to the White House. And it stands to reason, with the world lashing out against failed globalism in its various nefarious incarnations — largely driven by American exceptionalist military presence nearly everywhere on the planet — the empire sees expediency in heading off a possible insurrection.
To that end, the past fifteen years have seen the initially-surreptitious padding of law enforcement agencies with the tools, gear, vehicles, and — most alarmingly — weapons of war. Because terrorism, said the government, when its more apparent concern had to do with potential dissidents who have grown tired of corruption and the almost wholesale abandonment of constitutional and human rights.
Summoning the peculiar willful ignorance common in Americans’ worship of authority in uniforms — found in the anachronistic hero cop avatar —militarization of police slipped beneath the radars of most, who were instead pleased with the added protection against nebulous terrorist threats in the interest of the safety of the Boys in Blue.
That tacit permission allowed an occupying army to take root — complete with training indistinct from that received by battlefield warriors set for deployment overseas — though no person in a position of ‘authority’ would ever admit to as much. Neglecting vigilance of what amounts to domestic mission creep, we’re reaping a civilian body count previously expected only from military missions.
Worse, the triplicate issues of refusal by police to rein in the Warrior Cop mentality; the near impunity granted by judges and juries, even to the highest courts in the land, when police kill without justification; and the obstinance in Americans’ near infantile refusal to question this Blue authority’s missteps, have cleaved a gulf of division effectually insurmountable at this late date.
Now, those police cum victimizers — the apparent judges, juries, and executioners of the unarmed, the innocent, and the guilty, alike — have opportunistically employed a smattering of backlash attacks on members of their cult of authority to declare war on the people they once swore oaths to protect. False narrative of the oft-promulgated ‘war on cops,’ much less actual facts to the contrary, be damned.
American exceptionalism on a global scale has now inundated the homeland, in what must be termed Police Exceptionalism.
Before you scoff, consider the unavoidable truths.
Upon its return from summer vacation, Congress will deliberate legislation codifying into law a protected status for police which — in hubris of colossal proportions — places the occupation of law enforcement officer alongside categories of people who have faced historical and systemic bigotry, oppression, and abuse.
As an added insult, specifically, to the crushing struggles African-Americans have faced, this audacious legislation to deem the killing of an officer a hate crime, co-opted the very name of the activist movement demanding not only equality, for once, but reform of biased policing that disproportionately targets them — the same policing proposed for added protection under the color of law.
While Black Lives Matter chose not to additionally predicate ‘Too,’ since the unstated would be logically apparent, the Blue Lives Matter Act before Congress should have included — were honesty employed — the imperiously evident, ‘More.’
As thousands of families whose loved ones have perished at the hands of warrior cops who rarely face consequences will tell you, they already know the artificially-bolstered value placed on police lives — no additional insulation through law necessary. But that glaring attempt to forego the issue of police brutality in favor of Blue protectionism hasn’t stopped the introduction of similar measures across the country, including in Louisiana, which has served as a model for the potential federal law.
“The overarching message is that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana,” Gov. Bel Edwards proclaimed as he signed the nation’s first such bill into law.
Perhaps Edwards should re-examine the definition of hate crimes and take a look at the blatant racism spewed by fans and administrators of the Blue Lives Matter Facebook page — consisting of officers past and present, as well as their ardent, unapologetic subservients — who stumble over one another in disturbingly graphic calls for violence against members of the peaceful Black Lives Matter movement.
As Max Blumenthal wrote for AlterNet, followers of this social media enclave, using their own names, “have called for white Americans to organize as a race against civil rights protests, demanded that police operate exclusively in white neighborhoods, and demonized black victims of lethal police violence as ‘thugs,’ ‘hoodrats,’ and worse. Black Lives Matter is regularly described as a terrorist organization working in secret collusion with the Obama administration to wage civil war on cops. With help from a clickbait-style blog that churns out daily disinformation … the Blue Lives Matter Facebook page has racked up over 1 million likes in a relatively short period of time.”
Were these repugnant calls to decimate Black Lives Matter limited to only one page of one social media platform in one corner of the Internet, the issue might be manageable through an, albeit hefty, campaign of education and outreach. However, the broad scope of racist, bellicose rhetoric now crops up online in similar pages, groups, websites, and blogs with alarming frequency.
“Blow up the house,” urged commenter Joseph Brunner on a post about an African-American who, upon being harassed by a reporter to whom he’d refused to grant an interview, retrieved his rifle and returned to the door without pointing or aiming the weapon at anyone. “Hang that peace [sic] of shit from a red light in the middle of baton rouge [sic],” added Blue Lives Matter supporter Gerald Smith.
As self-identified police officer and combat veteran Brandon Obie commented on a post to the Police Officers Facebook page, which has an image of heavily armed, militarized police as a backdrop for the bold typeface declaration, ‘WAR IS COMING!’:
“Alot [sic] of these thugs don’t realize that alot [sic] of us officers have spent alot [sic] of time downrange stomping in the sandbox and are ready for a righteous fight if they want to bring one.”
Note such thinly-veiled and overt threats are in no way purely the twisted musings of rogue officers, whose identities might be difficult to accurately verify online. Commander of the Tulsa Police Department, Major Travis Yates, editor-in-chief of Law Officer, published an article Sunday entitled, flatly, “This Is War” — and in case you missed that title, the brief post includes two additional subheadings, which for good measure both state,“We are at war!”
These online comments and posts — many of which are too graphic or racist to warrant repeating — must be taken in the context of arrests following the murder of five officers in Dallas. At least four people were arrested by various law enforcement agencies for online posts of a similar nature; but in telling contrast, their generalized anger had been directed toward, you guessed it, police — and not specific officers, either. In fact, those arrests stood on such flimsy ground, when rounded up and hauled in, precisely what to charge them with had yet to be determined — in complete defiance of legality and the individuals’ constitutional rights.
“I know this is a new issue, but I want these people charged with crimes,” railed Detroit Police Chief James Craig, according to the Detroit News. “I’ve directed my officers to prepare warrants for these individuals, and we’ll see which venue is best to pursue charges.”
Blue privilege, it would seem, has its benefits when the law is conditionally applied only to those not conceding obeisance or fealty to those with a gun behind a badge and Thin Blue Line.
Police Exceptionalism this flagrant should sound blaring alarm bells for every citizen in the United States. In no uncertain terms, the arrests of those who simply criticize questionable police behavior, and the failure to arrest those threatening violence against civilians, evidence a sharp divergence in the constitutionally-protected right to speak freely — particularly in that neither side of this volley across the Thin Blue Line has made threats sufficient by Supreme Court guidelines to warrant detainment or charges.
Protests, demonstrations, and proposals seeking to reform brutal police tactics, restore accountability for misconduct, overhaul training methods, institute a national reporting requirement for deaths by police, force officers to carry their own liability insurance to take the burden of excessive force settlements off taxpayers, or any number of other potential solutions have fallen on deaf ears at every level of government.
In fact, the most successful call for reform thus far won’t benefit civilians at all — the Blue Lives Matter Act will simply cement Police Exceptionalism as policy. Rather than heeding warnings from advocates, independent media journalists, experts, and activists who said continued police brutality and impunity would eventually spawn blowback — perhaps on a national scale — lawmakers obstinately chose not to act.
Politicians and police can claim the existence of a war on cops until they’re blue in the face — it won’t somehow be any more true — but solidifying Police Exceptionalism by legislating a protected status holds the terrifying potential to bring it to fruition.
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