Authoritarianism: Response to Police Misconduct? A Slap on the Wrist

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Authoritarianism: when police misconduct is accepted. A cop trips up students on a soccer field for kicks; a woman is thrown to the ground, handcuffed and crammed into a police car by four officers, for jaywalking. In what other profession could anyone behave that way?

bully cop trips and kicks students, bully cop, georgetown cop trips high school students on soccer field, georgetown cop suspended for tripping and kicking students on soccer field, (04-30-2014, updated 07-15-2018)  Have you seen this video of a Georgetown cop at a high school football game? Georgetown is a smaller town north of Austin. Clear police misconduct, no?

Did he get fired on the spot? No, he got suspended. Suspended! In what other field of work could you willfully kick, push and trip up your customers and not be fired on the spot? Librarians, can you imagine tripping up teenagers and keeping your job? Doctors? Shop attendants?

And even after something like that, people don’t even dare say what needs to be said. The woman in the white t-shirt and pink pants in the photo is actually limping off the field because this thug just tripped her up and she fell hard. She never even confronted him. One young woman said afterward that the policeman “should have used better judgment”. Wow, strong words. That is authoritarianism: when the authorities can do whatever they want and everyone just accepts it. They may have felt he could have used better judgement, but they didn’t hold him to account. That was just their polite commentary later on, for the camera.

And then there were the cops who strong-armed a UT student in Austin because she was jaywalking (crossing the street away from an official crossing). She was jogging, with earphones on, and when she didn’t react when cop #1 asked her to stop, he grabbed her by the arm from behind.

She reacted the way I would’ve: she was startled so she freaked out and said, “I don’t care if you’re a cop; get your fucking hands off me!” And for that she got forced to the ground, handcuffed and forced into the police car by about four cops. This is also authoritarianism –not only is it police misconduct, or at the very least excessive force, those cops abused their power — they punished her for reacting to their inappropriate behavior.

Again, librarians, can you imagine treating a student like that who can’t hear you because they have earphones on when you try to tell them there’s no eating in the library? Or doctors, when you try to tell a patient to not use his cell phone in the hospital? Or shop assistants, when you need to tell someone they can’t be in the store holding a drink? So did at least cop #1 get fired on the spot for police misconduct? Again, no. Police chief Acevedo even defended him. Tried to spin it that there are so many pedestrian deaths in Austin and these cops were just trying to save lives.

Right.

Trying to save lives would go something like this: the cop would tap the jogger on her shoulder and beckon for her to take her earphones off. Then he would point out to her that she’s jaywalking, talk a little about all the pedestrian deaths, give her a warning and send her on her way.

That’s what civilized people do. That’s what anyone else in any other job would do. But put an American in a police uniform and he can be the biggest asshole he wants and he gets away with it on a daily basis.

Of course, to compare American police with librarians or doctors is unfair on one level, because their training is practically non-existent. They learn nothing about deescalation strategies, let alone about not escalating perfectly harmless situations to begin with. But of course, they don’t have to be trained in those things, because if they do cause situations to get completely out of hand, the most that happens to them is a weak slap on the wrist. Authoritarianism saves time and money, that’s for sure.

Again, I’m completely disgusted.

(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “When Are We Going to Get Angry?”, 04-30-2014)

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11 thoughts on “Authoritarianism: Response to Police Misconduct? A Slap on the Wrist

  1. I could not agree more. I remember when once upon a time we called these people ‘peace officers’ and their job was to serve and protect. Their violence is going WAY beyond bullying, too. Check out the Wikipedia article for police killings: They used lethal force 309 times in 2013 alone. I don’t know of any other country in the global north with stats like that. Nobody seems to collect how many pet dogs they kill but that number is absolutely huge. Google news reports them all the time. I’ve even seen footage of them killing old arthritic tail wagging dogs and dogs sleeping on porches. They’ve gone power mad with all their military toys. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforcement_officers_in_the_United_States_2013

    1. Yes, I was just listening to an item on NPR today or yesterday about the use of lethal force by the Border Patrol. Apparently it had to be spelled out again that kids throwing rocks FROM MEXICO do not need to be shot to death, since they are not a threat to the cops’ lives ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BORDER!

      1. omg that just boggles my mind. I have been continuously astonished by the rudeness of people in various uniforms here in the U.S. It has to be a cultural thing because it is just so pervasive ….

        1. Yes. The Dutch were extremely respectful of authority before WWII, always doing exactly what they were told by people in authority, like the police, and after WWII, gradually that changed, and when I grew up, anyway, we almost per definition had no automatic respect for authority. As a result, the police had to change. I was hired as a librarian at one of the five police academies when their training changed to include a lot more about society, and also about the role of the police during the German occupation. There are a lot of lessons Americans didn’t learn from WWII because the country itself was not part of the arena, and not accepting everything from the police is one of them.

          1. Plus, I think that because America practices perpetual war that the whole culture is geared to glamorize violence. When they stopped drafting people they had to create an army of mercenaries recruiting from the economically desperate and the morally bankrupt.

            1. Hm, not that the economically desperate and the morally bankrupt are necessarily the same people. But yes, there definitely seems to be this idea that cops get to be tough guys all the time.

            2. Yeah. I meant two different categories of people who tend to sign up. It sure would be nice if police departments would consider recruiting problem solvers instead of thugs.

  2. They are supposed to be public servants are they not? Yet they constantly harass citizens as though that is their real purpose. Those citizens you mentioned were lucky that they weren’t shot on the spot which they may have been had they been persons of color and it was night time. Once We had police show up to our racially diverse school in full riot gear when they were notified that there was a fight going on in the cafeteria. When they arrived it was just a HS brawl between a few students so one of the officers waded through the crowd of students watching until he fell to the ground at which point “Officer down!” was shouted by the other policemen who then commenced beating all students to the ground because anyone who was in that cafeteria was then considered a combatant. The police seem to have their own rules and regulations and they all lead towards violence as the answer to any problem, which they seem all too happy to provide should you not have one.

  3. Been outraged for years, but it’s been a lonely place. Check out the murder of Nick Christie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0ajHN4cXiA&list=PLCoNz4DrrR5L9TtiqXmOymuxYUmtZTGJf&index=12
    Needless to say, the Christie family settled with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for an undisclosed amount, leaving the taxpayer to pay the bill. Come to Lee County Fl. at your own risk, because no one committed this crime inside a locked county facility with no witnesses and self erasing surveillance video.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/nick-christie_n_2696234.html
    There is lots more,but no one wants to hear it and I could go on all day and not finish. To the best of my knowledge no one was fired, suspended or convicted, nor will there ever be any consequences for the officers involved, only taxpayers will see an increase in their bills and not know what for.

    1. Wow. And notice how all these videos of outrage are about cops abusing their powers against white people. Black people would perpetually have no more battery power left on their phones if they had to film every misbehavior the cops perpetrated against them. Ugh!

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