To this point in Series III, I have described a police force that practices intentional ignorance, harm, and violence. A force that takes joy in brutalizing the people they are supposed to protect while being the only public servants with unionization that allows for complete lack of culpability. This post will be perhaps my strongest argument against the character of the individuals that make up American law enforcement; painting the picture of our reality, a squad of insecure bullies that causes much more harm than good. I believe that of course there is a need for police and justice systems in our country but I will save the final entry in this series for how I believe we should reform them, uprooting the structures that exist and cutting out the poison at the source is needed for our law enforcement institutions because the problem isn’t a few bad individuals. The problem is the entire culture and history of what the institution has been founded on, along with the character of the majority of the people who comprise it due to the appeal of that history and culture.
How has the history of corporate protection, unionization while simultaneously brutalizing other laborers attempting to organize, upholding white supremacy, made up medical diagnoses, and militarization of police that we’ve analyzed so far translated into the modern day? Law enforcement is now one of the most oppressive, yet contradictorily popular, institutions in our nation.
Many communities have been so blinded by law and order propaganda that they see the current iteration of policing as the only effective method for keeping peace in our cities. This thought is incorrect. Police have consolidated their power through organization and legislation throughout the last several decades to the point of being untouchable. Now they are able to use the same tactics of oppression that have been in their repertoire for the last 150 plus years on anyone they choose, blowing down doors and murdering people in their sleep or choking them out on the street and claiming they were going to die anyways. Due to unionization and their entrenched power police can simply say “oops” and wipe their hands of murder, even when using lethal force was entirely unjustified. For example in 2019, officer Tyler Langman murdered a young man named Chad Breinholt in the precinct, telling him before he pulled the trigger, “you’re about to die my friend.” This was Langman’s third killing as a police officer, yet it was deemed reasonable force.
Back the blue folks believe that every cop must have good intentions because they align with their (often racist and out of date) values that America needs authoritarian men with guns to keep the streets “safe.” They argue that if there was truly as much corruption within departments as the left claims, some of the many good cops would come forward to expose it. Being consumed by individual experience and refusing to think empathetically about the experiences of others puts wealthy and privileged people inside of a bubble where they are insulated from the facts of America’s oppression. They are able to spew hatred and obsinently stand in the way of progress because they are insulated from police brutality among other harsh realities, and their lives aren’t impacted in any way. As white or otherwise privileged people make the argument that police are necessary for stopping crime, they refuse to acknowledge the actual data and examples that show otherwise.
Police don’t even help white people either, but they have their existence justified in a zero sum world that would sooner see people killed than have their basic needs met through stealing food. In the 1980’s our levels of spending for welfare and police departments were roughly equal, but since then we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the funding going towards military and other law and order agendas. The police now command over twice as much money than we spend on social welfare in this country; nearly a trillion dollars annually. What have the police been able to do with this massive budget? Virtually nothing meaningful besides acquiring military grade weapons to fight a war of attrition they’ve been told is happening on American streets, needlessly murdering thousands along the way.
It is shown that in America only around 11% of reported major crimes end in an arrest, and only 2% are actually resolved with a conviction. Additionally, fewer than half of the serious crimes that occur are even reported to police, because on some level people realize how ineffective they are. Closure rates for robbery cases are abysmal as less than 30% of theft is solved by police, and fewer than 15% of stolen cars are returned. If you were robbed of lower ticket items such as a bike or car radio, those would have even less of a chance for salvage at under 13%. Over half of violent assault perpetrators are never even found, less than 40% are actually arrested and charged. This includes public robberies at gunpoint, hit and runs, or sexual assault.
Speaking of which, only about 30% of sexual assault cases are closed, and only 4.6% of rapists are ever arrested. It is estimated less than a quarter of such incidents are even documented since the stigma and social shame we force upon rape victims is horrendous. Sexual assault survivors are also far less likely to report their abuse out of fear for law enforcement, and there are many documented cases of this fear being justified. Unsurprisingly, the rate of arrest for rapists is roughly the same regardless of if a sexual assault survivor comes forward about their experience or goes completely silent and unreported. The odds of a rapist being caught are in no way increased or helped by police presence. In 2019 664 rapes were reported in Detroit, and only 44 arrests were made. Further, in America’s largest police force, NYPD, the average caseload for an officer assigned to the sexual crimes unit is around 65 separate investigations.
Police officers are notorious abusers, having rates of domestic violence among their ranks 15 times higher than that of the normal population. Unfortunately, this violence in their personal lives is often directed at their spouses and children, and it becomes obvious when viewing these statistics that of course police have issues with killing people. In 1991 it was estimated that 360,000 of the 900,000 active duty police officers were committing acts of abuse, yet cops protect their own so fiercely that only 91 of 227 alleged domestic abuse cases brought in front of courts in the 90’s were sustained. Spouses and children of law enforcement have higher suicide rates as a result of the desperation that constant abuse causes, while knowing that if they were to try and get any help they would only be laughed away or punished. In the modern force, it is estimated that 40% of officers are abusers.
Police are violent by nature, also being individuals that fit a pattern of desiring control and others to submit. Yet we allow them to join a law enforcement gives them free passes to brutalize whoever they fucking want to with no accountability for their actions. Horrifically, yet sadly unsurprisingly, police officers are notorious for sexual misconduct as well; in particular committing mass child rape as an institution. From 2005 – 2007 alone there were 548 cases of law enforcement officials being arrested for sex crimes, 66 of whom were repeat offenders. One officer had 14 separate outstanding cases against him. It is acknowledged that being a police officer alone raises one’s propensity to commit sexual misconduct, and less than half of officers that commit a sex crime on duty are arrested.
According to research the “model” police victim is between 14- 16, female, and a child that the officer does not previously know before they come into contact. 92% of police sex crime victims are female, and 73% of them are under 18. If an officer’s victim happens to be male, then the chance that officer will be arrested falls by 98%. With this knowledge it is entirely understandable why nobody trusts the police, and has created an environment where hundreds of officers can get away with sexual assault while emerging completely unharmed.
Police lack accountability in any sense of the word, and can easily threaten or intimidate their victims into staying quiet. What would you do if confronted by a heavily armed and armored man who has a badge of authority and a guarantee they can’t get in trouble? If they were to force themselves upon you they could easily tase you into submission, or beat you unconscious, or arrest you on trumped up charges. There is nobody to question the authority we give police and Americans are entirely blind to the fact that our law enforcement commit more crimes than they solve. I find it ironic that many alt right Trump supporters and Qanon folks claim to fight the ‘evil, peadophilic libs’ but are staunchly backing the blue; a force that commits more child rape than any institution besides maybe the Catholic Church.
The solve rate for murders is around 61%, yet there are many false convictions and coerced testimonies, such as in the case of the Central Park 5, that have skewed these arrest rates (not to mention there are instances such as police handing over a 14 year old to Jeffrey Dahmer, the boy hysterically pleading for his life and bleeding from his rectum with three women begging the officers to listen, yet they brushed them off in favor of the white man and dropped him in the monster’s lap. Dahmer murdered and ate him, one of the cops is now a police chief).
Since murder is often the crime most vehemently called for justice on, police feel pressure to make an arrest and often rely on profiling vulnerable populations that can’t resist. Police simply don’t solve the amount of crimes that we are led to believe based on TV and other media, actually creating more problems than they solve by committing rape, murder, and extortion themselves and benefitting from laws that create violent black markets for illicit substances.
The more police activity in an area, the higher crime rates will be. When there are heavily armored units patrolling your neighborhood because you’ve been labelled a threat, of course you are going to view your self worth as nothing more than what the world expects you to be. Increased militarization and the force that law enforcement uses only exacerbate a feeling of crime, but is not reflective of the actual levels. Though we label communities of poor and POC across America as the enemy, as the reason for crime, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We have seen a steady decline in crime nationwide since the early 2000’s as the number of officers physically out on the streets has correspondingly been reduced. This year we have seen high levels of shootings in Portland and other areas of the country, but I believe that is attributed more to the state of our identity politics and paranoia of each other, not to mention intentional inaction by police.
The response time for law enforcement is abysmal. The PPB takes an average of 10 minutes to respond to a high priority emergency, 25 minutes to respond to a medium emergency, (like robbery) and over an hour to respond to a low priority call like a traffic accident. If there is a major crime in your area it is going to have been long over before any sort of response is initiated, yet we pretend that having police somehow makes the streets safer. Perhaps the most damning statistic of all is the fact that there is a clear relationship between less police officers being present having positive effects on our communities. As the number of police per capita falls, so too does the crime rate. The more you surveil and harass a population, the more you criminalize them and treat them as lesser, the more inclined that population is going to be to act in a criminal manner.
Oppressing people and beating them down by taking away neighborhoods, wealth, businesses, and lives creates hopelessness; certain segments of the population, specifically African Americans, have been corralled into poor neighborhoods with little opportunity for formal education, and no options to support their families in an increasingly expensive world besides turning to activities police say are illegal. Then of course, law enforcement is there waiting for them to misstep as a result of their disproportionate enforcement on POC and poor communities. Perhaps people feel more secure in their existence when they have more autonomy and aren’t under the constant surveillance of an entity that wants to kill them, and I will explore actually preventing crime and creating a prosperous society without the current version of police in book 2.
Many people don’t realize that Warren v. The District of Columbia determined law enforcement isn’t required to help or protect people from harm, and following the Stoneman Douglas shooting it was determined that even a school safety officer has no legal obligation to protect students despite a “special relationship” to students. After the school’s resident police officer abandoned post during the shooting and did nothing to intervene or try to protect children from being murdered, the Supreme Court dismissed appeal and solidified results that on a state level, the crucial last defense of federalism (state v. individual freedoms), have set the precedent that officers are only bound to protect those who are directly in custody. Despite our “brave boys in blue” regularly receiving countless hours of firearm and crisis intervention training, police in Florida insisted that if we expect police to run towards extreme danger, they need even more funding.
Due to this precedent, bureaus such as PPB are free to engage in “slow downs,” unofficial police union strikes that are ongoing currently, selectively choosing who they respond to and how long their response is. This has further blatantly revealed the true purpose of police and how harmful their existence in its current form is; on September 6th a shooter opened fire in a Portland neighborhood, causing Adam Johnson to run into the line of fire to grab his son and carry him to safety. The police showed up at the scene of the incident over 30 minutes later, telling Johnson and the media that their response to the shooter was so slow “because no one got hurt.”
Since August there have been ongoing protests at the Mondelez owned Ritz and Oreo Nabisco factories in Portland, and a group of strikers occupied a space near the Union Pacific tracks in town that prevented trains from delivering cooking oil, flour, and sugar to the bakeries. Unionized railroad workers were honoring this strike, much to the chagrin of Mondelez and Nabisco, and on September 2nd the companies hired a survey crew that determined (without showing any proof) the land by the train tracks was company property. Police were called by Nabisco reps at 5:12 pm to break the strike, any guesses as to how quickly they responded? By 5:24 pm police were on scene and telling protestors to go home. When there is an active shooter in your neighborhood the police will take over twice as long to respond as when a corporation calls and asks them to protect their property. Do you see how little law enforcement actually cares about the people they are supposedly here to protect and serve?
Many white folks haven’t seen oppression first hand in their own communities (because of privilege and living outside of the system’s restrictions due to wealth or status,) and think that if reality was as bad as it is, someone within law enforcement would be speaking out. The unfortunate truth is that when good cops try to come forward about a bad apple, even when whole departments are aware of illegal or racist behavior, the members of the force perpetrating these crimes are rarely ever formally accused or brought to justice. American police do not have an issue of bad apples, the entire institution is poisoned and there are very few actual “good” people. This becomes a moot point anyways, because why would you try to pick the one or two nice looking fruits out of a rotting, toxic orchard and say everything is fine?
We have given police a licence to kill, told them they are at war with certain populations and sent them out to oversee those people, telling them that they are in constant danger. This mindset has led to a culture of brutality within departments and a code of silence that sees retaliation against anyone who tries to come forward. Jon Burge was a Korea and Vietnam veteran who ascended to the rank of commander within Chicago PD (the nation’s most segregated city). Burge had a particular reputation for getting confessions out of almost every suspect he interrogated, and if he didn’t get a direct admission of guilt, he always got them to talk.
Throughout his heralded career as a member of the Chicago police, Burge created a culture bordering on psychopathy within the department, naming himself head of an “A-Team” who would stop any criminal no matter the cost. As you could imagine, this most likely stemmed from his days as a soldier and the mindset of viewing the enemy as less than human infected him and the officers under his command. (Warning, this is going to be graphic and describe torture.)
In his mission to stop criminals, Burge employed extremely violent methods, outright torturing the suspects that his unit detained. His barbaric ways to coerce victims into talking included waterboarding, burns, beatings, and his particular favorite; attaching nodes to people’s genitals that sent electric shocks from a special battery unit. You may think that he was stopped relatively quickly after starting this behavior and that someone had to come forward after hearing about this evil, yet Burge is documented to have tortured hundreds of detainees spanning 19 years, from 1972-1991. He paraded his unit around the station, celebrating whenever suspects confessed. The battery that he used to electrocute people’s genitals was often on display in his office.
Where were the good cops? How did an entire department, one of the largest and best funded metropolitan forces with millions of lives in their hands, knowingly allow this man to continue torturing people for years? It is fallacious to think that a ‘good cop’ could remedy a rotten institution, let alone one of the most deeply rooted institutions of white supremacy and upper class property defense, because America believes that the population of labelled criminals cops ‘protect’ them from are less than human and deserve to be tortured and killed for simply having the audacity to exist.
- “A Utah Police officer killed a man inside the police department. It was his third shooting,” Miller, Jessica. 2021. Salt Lake Tribune.
- The Conversation, 2020.
- “Behind the Police” Robert Evans, 2020.
- “Rape cases,” USA today. 2020.
- “Police domestic violence,” Burmon, Andrew. 2021.
- “Police Sexual Misconduct; a national scale study of arrested officers,” Stinson, Philip et. al. 2014.
- “Did police have a legal duty to protect students at Stoneman Douglas?” Sweeney, Dan, 2018.
- “Dad runs towards ne portland gunfire to save kids,” Haas, Elise, 2021. Oregon Live
- “Nabisco owner sends cease and desist letter to bakers union pledging legal action,” Peel, Sophie. 2021.