You awake to the sound of heavy footsteps outside. The stomp of what must be several pairs of boots startled you out of your slumber, and along with the creak of the porch under their weight, you can hear other muffled movements coming from behind your front door. You feel your partner still peacefully breathing next to you and look to the foot of the bed where your dog is curled up, one eye open and ears cocked. Hearing urgent whispers now mixing with the footsteps lets the full realization of the situation sink in. You are wrapped up in bed with just boxers on, groggy from sleep, and unknown people that could be assailants are feet away on your deck. It has only taken a few seconds to note all of this, and something at the back of your brain urges you to get up and face what could be robbers, nosy neighbors, or some other unexpected visitor. It doesn’t seem right that someone would be poking around on your property this early though, so you reach into the bedside table and grab the 9mm Colt that lives there for emergencies. Your dog is now off the bed and standing in your bedroom doorway, slowly wagging his tail as he curiously looks towards the front door and what lies in wait inches beyond.
Your partner has turned over and is opening their eyes as you reach for the handgun, asking “What’s going on?” as they check the alarm clock. 5:00 AM. Standing up you reply that you’re not sure, but it sounds like there’s someone on our porch trying to get in. You haven’t had a chance to take more than two steps around the bed when suddenly the front door is blown inwards, splinters from the blast flying past your face as you duck to the side. Everything is chaos; the dog is barking like mad as you see a metal object fly through the hole that used to be your entrance and your partner is screaming at the top of their lungs. A bright flash comes from the metal canister, and you’re temporarily blinded as some part of your hearing that’s not left ringing registers a swarm of men rushing in behind the explosion. You have been flung backwards into the bedroom and are laying at the foot of the bed now, the gun still clasped in your right hand. Raising your free arm to rub your eyes and try to get the ringing to stop, you hear two gunshots ring out and the barking from your dog noticeably stops. The screaming from the bed intensifies as your partner is huddling in the blanket, terrified, and you turn your head into the hallway to see a faceless mass of black body armor. Their guns, all high caliber looking rifles, are trained directly on you.
“Police, freeze! On the ground! Drop drop drop! Hands in the air, now!” are only some of the commands you’re able to pick out from the men and in a panic, you don’t know what to do. You look behind them and see your dog whimpering on the ground as blood streams from his stomach, slowly bringing your arms around and into the air. At the same time, the officers see the gun held in your right hand. There is barely any registration of pain as the first bullet hits you in the chest, just what feels like a sledgehammer knocking you backwards. Another rips through your shoulder as you stumble, and the third lodges itself squarely in your stomach. By this point you are on the ground, recognizing that your dog has been killed and you are now dying too. The only thought you can bring to the front of your fading mind is “Why are the cops here? I didn’t do anything wrong.” A tear wells as you realize you’ll never be able to hug your partner again, feel the warm sun on your skin, or tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. By now pain is starting to register past the initial shock, and blood fills your mouth as an officer rips away the handgun that somehow is still locked in your fingers. The last Earthly sight that you register is an armor clad figure looking down on you, the barrel of a gun jammed in your face. A small gurgle weakly passes between your lips. The last thought you have before darkness takes hold is that you hope your partner doesn’t suffer the same fate.
On the news that morning there is a story about an apartment raid gone wrong. The police had identified a suspected drug dealer living in a complex on the Northeast side of town, and in their haste to organize a SWAT raid they had accidentally procured the wrong unit number. The news anchor tells the audience how tragic it was that a young man and his dog were killed during the no knock raid, as police had blown in the door to an apartment three doors down from the intended target. They shot when encountering a “vicious dog” and gun wielding owner. Police had dragged a woman out of the bed and forced her to sit in handcuffs, wearing only underwear, next to her dead boyfriend as they began aggressively yelling questions in her face. The only image of her that the news shows is a nice group photo of her and the now dead boyfriend on vacation with their shepherd. After the dust had settled and the police realized their egregious mistake, a formal apology was issued and it was back to business as usual. There were a couple of protests that cropped up in response, but no accountability was held for the officers who had killed the young man and torn a family apart due to a simple bungle of unit numbers.
Up to 20,000 of these no knock style raids are conducted by SWAT and paramilitary police units every year. The causal basis that police units need in order to get permission for a windows shattered type of assault is next to none. Ask Duncan Lemp, killed in 2020 during a no knock raid in Maryland or Kathryn Johnston, a 92 year old Georgian woman who was killed in 2006. In Lemp’s case a raid was justified by the department because he expressed “anti-police views,” held firearms, and was a member of the Three Percenters. (An alt right paramilitary group) Johnston’s home was raided during a department described “botched” drug search. Police cut off the bars guarding her front door, and blew it open during the middle of the night. They claimed to have seen a gun held by Johnston, a 92 year old woman, and fired 39 shots in her direction. It was determined the one shot they thought had come from her was actually a trigger happy officer who shot dangerously close to his squad mates. Officers then proceeded to plant cannabis in her home, and it was later found that they falsified all paperwork and witness accounts of the murder to escape accountability.
The militarization of our police and willful ignorance from any entity in the government that could regulate them has led to countless lives lost in the vein of Johnston, Lemp, or the fictional account at the beginning of the chapter. Law enforcement has free reign to send heavily armored military units into residential homes without warning, and can kill anything that they view as a threat with absolutely no fear of consequence. When you can be killed for belonging to a certain ideological group, or for protecting your home against a faceless attacker, that is not freedom. America is overseen by a government that writes laws intentionally targeting certain citizens as we’ve seen in the previous chapter, and thousands of innocent civilians are murdered by a gestapo type force every year. We still believe that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but the truth is that you can be killed by the forces who are supposed to protect and serve for simply existing. The “brave” are scared of 92 year old women and dogs, so they murder them. In the reality of our American police state, no one will be free until the criminals in uniform are brought under control.
I know the reaction from many readers at this point is to be disgruntled at the previous statement because what about the “good cops.” I know phenomenal individuals who happen to be police officers or a part of law enforcement in some way. They know how I feel about the institution that provides them a check. It doesn’t mean that I resent them in any way; I care about the person underlying, what someone does for a living doesn’t make them less of a human to me. However in writing this I hope to educate them and a broader audience on the reasons I have such strong opinions on the character and purpose of law enforcement as an institution. To fully understand the horror and trauma that has spawned from our law enforcement we need to know their origins, realize that cops today are only upholding the same morally bankrupt agenda they were founded upon, and that the actions of one, two, even two thousand good people in the force will do nothing to solve the systemic rot.
In northern states during the 19th century, police forces were spawned directly from groups of hired mercenaries that elites paid to protect their property. This included many factories in the industrial era, and the most crucial duty of these early mercenary style forces were to break strikes and stop labor movements from organizing in any meaningful way. To nobody’s surprise, police quickly gained a reputation of brutality and corruption, joining forces with local mobs and running rackets that included prostitution, drugs, gambling…pretty much anything illicit that was in high demand. This trend of corruption and anti-labor has continued right up until the present. In the 90’s there was the “dirty 30” scandal where 33 NYPD officers were arrested and charged with civil rights conspiracy, perjury, narcotics distribution, and extortion. Essentially, NYPD was raiding the homes of organized crime and drug traffickers, then appropriated the illicit materials for their own use and distribution and ran a black market crime ring out of the 30th precinct. Modern cops have no less corruption, police unions are just good at hiding it, and we are witnessing a massive FBI investigation into the NYPD yet again this year, prompting Ed Mullins (the union boss) to resign after his home and office were raided by federal authorities.
Southern police departments formed out of preexisting slave patrols following the Civil War. These men took special pleasure in having their dogs attack people running for their lives, oftentimes using the scars their animals inflicted as measures of how many times a slave had tried to escape and been unsuccessful. The methods used against slaves are still in practice to this day, translated into a new framework with new legal standards, but targeting the same vulnerable population that have been oppressed for centuries in America.
The Ferguson police department, along with St. Louis PD and many other southern departments, were products of local slave patrols simply being handed badges as soon as the government decided to make the police a formal service. To this day Ferguson police use the same type of canine hunting tactics that slave catchers did to restrain suspects they are pursuing. Their practices were finally investigated in the early 2010’s after some police brutality incidents such as Michael Brown’s murder got national coverage, and K9 units were specifically looked into after an incident of a 14 year old boy being attacked by police dogs and beaten while they were pinning him to the ground drew outcry.
The results of this inquiry included findings that Ferguson dogs were biting suspects at an alarmingly high rate, much more than the national average, while police were engaging in unlawful use of force and sending dogs chasing after minor targets that had no need to be pursued. The DOJ found that Ferguson’s cops were using dogs to inflict punishment rather than immobilize a suspect, allowing canines to inflict severe bites on multiple teenagers as young as 14. When looking further into the demographics of all reported canine injuries a disturbing statistic emerges; 100% of all civilians bitten by Ferguson dogs were black. The study also found that despite a 67% African American population in the city, 93% of the arrests within a two year period were black individuals. It’s not just Ferguson that has statistics showing a clear target for black and POC people either, they are unfortunately a fairly accurate representation of American police departments.
The basis of enforcing white supremacy and protecting property for the wealthy that police were founded on still drives their actions today. They have been given qualified immunity to escape any accountability for their horrifying actions, and law enforcement can get away with basically anything due to their freedom to use extreme force. Any ingrained bias is overlooked, and they can commit horrible actions while half the nation defends them because of how successful law and order propaganda has been within our isolated identity spheres; when you have no exposure outside a small community of course you will believe danger lies around every corner and view victims of police brutality as subhuman, especially since media preys upon ingrained biases and fears just as much as any other American institution. It is the reason that Derek Chauvin was the first police officer in Minnesota to ever be convicted of murder despite hundreds, if not thousands, of cases that were nearly identical.
This series is going to be exploring the depths of evil and harm that American police have inflicted upon us, especially BIPOC communities. My hope is that readers will leave feeling educated on the realities of law enforcement and understand why the need for complete reform is necessary, not petty half promises of accountability. A force with complete protection from consequences of their actions should never exist firstly, but especially one that is given billions of dollars worth of military grade equipment and then thrown onto the streets while being told it’s a dangerous war zone. If we desire a federalist system that allows the utmost personal freedoms with as little federal intervention, a good first step is to remove the authority of a gestapo type entity from blowing down our doors and murdering people because they are scared of the “other.” My blood reached boiling point multiple times while I was researching and writing this section of my book, and in a way I want to convey that feeling to readers. The injustice that is shown to our brothers and sisters in poor and POC neighborhoods needs to end if we have any hope of healing as a country and extending opportunities to all, I just pray that it doesn’t take another thousand murders to take action. (We’ll of course discuss the summer of protests that fizzled out and the performative conclusions that resulted).