Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

In a summer punctuated by same, that has seen the untimely, needless deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others, in a summer that has simultaneously chronicled the assault and harassment of law abiding, no more than a slight nuisance citizens, hardly surprising is another headline showing cops flubbing up and crossing the line in the process; caught all on video of course. As compelling as the lead in complied by Politics Nation beginning the link below, showing less headlined cases likewise ending in death, lasting injury, consequences for persons facing minor charges, a young man shot by police for holding a toy gun in a Wal-Mart and a young man who later died after police tased him repeatedly for refusing to get up; after the beating given to Marlene Pinnock on the side of a highway in California by a patrol cop who alleged in his report he was taking her into custody for her own safety post finding her walking unsteadily too close to the freeway traffic, little could shock us. That is until police in Forney Texas lowered the bar decidedly, their own dash cam capturing the felony arrest procedure enacted on a woman stopped with her 4 young children in the car; the reason, they got a call about a vehicle full of people waving a gun. The problem, the call was for a tan, that’s a dirt, dessert, sand color for those completely ignorant, Toyota housing at least 4 presumably adult males; officers stopped a burgundy, that’s a shade of red for those who flunked or never took home Ec., Nissan housing a woman with children, oldest age 10. Next they tell Kametra Barbour to walk backwards away from her car holding her now terrified children, she franticly and repeatedly asked what are we doing, sir what is going on, saying my kids, my kids, you hear officers murmuring, her emphatic insistence they don’t have a gun and you hear her young son crying as he gets out of the car, walks to the officer hands exaggeratedly high in the air. You can hear it in their crying, tears, questions about are they going to jail, one of them screaming in the background; the result, an apology while top brass in Forney stand behind the stop and protocols followed. Never mind Ms. Barbour is left without words to explain this to her children, never mind days later as she took them to school upon seeing a police car one of the older children told her younger brother to duck and she had to say; no, you don’t have to because we haven’t done anything wrong, never mind she and her children both now have an irrational fear of cops afraid to go out at night, be out after dark for fear of being stopped, in her own words, ridiculous.

 Before we even get to issues broached by the family attorney, Barbour’s local pastor also present in the MSNBC interview centering around race, an again all white police force in a predominately black community, racial sensitivity training needed for these officers along with a serious review of policy, the interesting side note this is the place George Zimmerman was stopped and officials took a selfie with him, how do you make such an egregious mix up? Independent of an officer being unable to differentiate car models at night, in the dark, many compact, family cars, fuel economy vehicles looking similar to each other especially without the advantage of broad daylight, though maybe that’s something beat cops, patrol cops ought to be taught, a class they have to graduate at the police academy, how exactly do you confuse tan and red? Should color blind individuals be allowed on the police force, which is a definite improbability, color blindness usually comes in 3 forms: complete color deficiency, where people see things literally in black and white or those with a partial deficiency effecting one of the following color pairs, the inability to distinguish red and green, the inability to separate yellows and blues, nothing about telling sand color, brown from red. Darkness really less of a factor than we originally think due to car headlights, the dash cam again clearly shows the color of the car they stopped, and yes we understand the fear and apprehension that can come with any stop because officers don’t know if the persons are high, armed, are going to flee, what will happen. Yet instead of double checking what they were looking for, talking to the woman driving, when supposedly they were looking for a group of males, using his standard issue flashlight to see inside the car, noting there are children, asking their ages, seeing no one there fits the description, responding to cooperation, calm with the same and letting them go, he proceeds to have Barbour walk backwards toward the other cop, won’t tell her why they stopped her, terrifies her children, then lamely tries to sooth the same screaming, crying children saying everything is alright now. No, Mr. officer things are far from alright now, because now a woman has no words to explain why this happened to her family on the way home from a local Wal-Mart, because now instead of young people seeing protect and serve, a safe person to go to if they are in trouble, they feel a source of fear in seeing police, police cars directly stemming from what happened that night on the side of a highway when you got it so wrong. And your boss, bosses have the audacity to defend a felony traffic stop traumatizing the paragons of innocence, a law abiding woman minding her own business; forget racial sensitivity training, sweeping policy changes, community awareness, forging positive community relationships, let’s opt for some basic competency tests for these officers. Ensuring they can distinguish makes and models of cars, rudimentary colors of same, can differentiate between persons who are clearly male or clearly female; fundamental skills required to do accurate police work, fundamental skills preventing the perpetuation of a profoundly negative  stereotype, traumatization of the general public and turning another generation against law enforcement, this time justifiably. Worse Mr. officer is adding in the adjacent facts this is an all-white police force serving a largely black community, people in your department took a selfie with George Zimmerman, the man who many believe got away with the cold blooded murder of Trayvon Martin, rather than conducting the traffic stop or whatever official police business they had with him; you read the same headlines we do across the nation and still you elected to make this woman feel like she had to be extra careful, extra calm, forfeit her rights as a citizen, as a human being in following your instructions to the letter lest she find herself gunned down in front of her kids over a mistake! Leaving residents there with the unmistakable feeling this is about race; you saw a car, you saw a mess of people, you stopped her, saw she was black and assumed you had the right person(s).

But police not following common sense standard procedures is hardly new nor is being woefully out of their depth; another mother we’ve come to know through similar experience was the one who sped away from police during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop ultimately ending in an officer firing a number of bullets into her minivan again housing multiple children. Oriana Farrell recently told her side of the story to Good Morning America including key points like, that she initially drove away thinking the traffic stop was complete, that there wasn’t going to be a ticket since he handed her her license back. While pulling out slowly from the stop she is chased by an officer, he attempts to pull her out of the car prompting her 15 year old son to get out, taking issue with someone, police officer or not, putting their hands on his mother; when back up arrives, you see one officer pull his gun, a second is attempting to beat out the back window where her various aged 5 kids are with his baton, a third yelling for her to open the door, screams and obvious fear seen and heard too, at one point her older children standing in front of the open driver side door attempting shield her from the erratic officer. Her finally speeding away from gunfire stating she felt increasingly unsafe, feeling the original officer was looking for things, reasons to write a ticket, elaborating she felt utter fear as things escalated out of control, once more we hear the name Trayvon Martin invoked and the concepts brought with it; black people in fear of the police, afraid they too will be shot by police for failure to comprehend directions, any moves made, any attempt to assert their rights as citizens, as human beings. And yes the officer firing those bullets was fired, the damage is still done; terrifying a woman and her family for the monetary value of a speeding ticket, further tainting the nation image of police in general, making the good ones jobs that much harder. The backup officer responsible for those shots, though he always maintained the claim he never knew there were children in the car, perhaps he needed more information upon coming on scene, needed to better assess the situation before pulling his weapon let alone actually discharging it. And yes traffic stop procedures doubtlessly vary by state; however, you don’t ask the person to wait for their ticket, their written warning, someway dismiss them when you are finished so they know? Keeping in mind you have immigrants here new to the country, new to licensing procedures, the what to do when stopped by the police drill taught in traffic school, which presumes they took said course before testing for their license in the first place; keeping in mind law abiding citizens who don’t get in trouble with the police regularly, haven’t had a speeding ticket in years, subsequently haven’t taken a driving class in as many years may have simply forgotten the traffic stop procedure, wouldn’t that be a good idea? Such common realities lessening the probability of Farrell’s malicious intent to evade police, to evade a traffic ticket she can’t pay; her view of events corroborated by previously mentioned dash cam footage showing the stopping officer had clipboard in hand indicating the next logical step would be to hand the woman her license back, dole out a reminder about the speed limit as you write out the warning/ticket rather than handing it back and walking away from her vehicle a second time. We know the danger to police doing traffic stops, the large unknowns; that being said, the passivity and businesslike manner of the officer until she drove away strongly points to there being no APB out for her, her car, no arrest warrants, proving she was not combative before “suddenly leaving” from his vantage point. Tying back into what she vehemently told the popular morning show, regardless of whether she drove away, whether the officer interpreted her actions that way, it doesn’t deserve being shot at; especially true considering they possessed her license plate, her address from her driving license, perfectly capable then of sending her the traffic fine, a summons to appear in court for the initial violation plus fleeing the ticketing officer. Knowing exactly where she lived, they had the option to come to her home placing her under arrest for evading her rightful traffic ticket; instead officers shot at her moving car, oddly not taking out the tires but seeming to aim for the back window. 90% of police patrol has been said to be problem solving and this is how they solve traffic ticket dodgers?–coming-from-ferguson-officials-317957187909

Putting out of their depth on display, one needs look no farther than Ferguson Missouri, not only the place where 18 year old, unarmed Michael Brown was shot, but subject to civil unrest ever since, civil unrest strikingly met with what many call completely unnecessary force; police meeting erstwhile peaceful protestors decked out in full riot gear, using tear gas, guns mounted on military style vehicles to disperse crowds of less than 500 people over plastic bottles purportedly thrown at such  heavily protected police, contrasting most adopting the hands up posture said to have been used by Michael Brown moments before his death, sitting arms linked in the streets or chanting the mantra hands up don’t shoot. Prompting reporters, experts and various onlookers to ask why the militarization not just of the Ferguson police but police forces across America, why MRAP armored, mine resistant tanks are needed there or to handle a domestic disturbance in Ohio, small issues across the nation, why largely peaceful protests are being called riots, when no one was injured, in the beginning no fire arms were present other than those brought by police and looting had stopped. Protests touched off by eye-witness accounts saying Brown’s hands were up when the officer shot at least 6 bullets into him, ratcheted up several notches when Brown’s body was left in the street for hours, tensions escalated further as days dragged on and yet police refused to release the officers name citing an imminent danger to his safety, refused to release relevant documents i.e. the coroner’s report, the public record incident report including the shooting of Michael Brown. The day of the press conference media, locals thought would be about divulging the officer’s name, pertinent details in the coroner’s report was conversely marred by a convenience store surveillance video possibly showing Brown stealing cigars; after which it became more bungling in Mayberry, first the police chief saying the potential robbery was cause for the stop by the controversial officer, then saying it wasn’t rather him blocking traffic while walking in the street vs. the sidewalk, refusing to take questions, convening hours later to take questions, blaming the release of that ridiculously unhelpful video, into what was already a powder keg, on freedom of information requests. Forget the information requested was the name of the officer, public record incident reports, coroner findings available at that moment; these are the same police admittedly using tactical, riot, war time gear they had never trained on, one officer pointing his gun at non-violent persons assembled so shocking a former military veteran active in Iraq was said to be yelling at police blasting their outlandish behavior, police who were, moving forward, taken off crowd control efforts and replaced with national guard personnel, police who have yet, to this day to arrest Darren Wilson pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation. A grand jury who has, contrary to most court proceedings, been tasked with assigning charges in the case as opposed to the prosecutor doing so, things left so open ended it has analysts scratching their heads and wondering if there will even be an indictment.        


Adding insult to multiple injuries dealt to the soul of a community who won’t heal for years to come, if it ever does, are videos nearly identical to the one above showing extremist persons holding positions of authority and what they ultimately do with them compounded by how those in authority over them react to uncovered information. CNN has on camera an officer who shoved reporter Don Lemon in the process of covering events in Ferguson on top of when asked his name responding to another with an expletive; well that officer was later suspended after a YouTube video surfaced of him speaking to a group known as Oath Keepers, encompassing racist bigotry against blacks, against gay people, speaking about domestic violence, hot in the headlines post details on Ray Rice, he listed all the types of trespassing people, usually men  can find themselves arrested for calling it stupid and telling people any way involved in domestic violence they should just “kill each other and get it over with…don’t waste cops time with that.”  In the light of his hour plus long rant about citizens, groups he is supposed to be serving and protecting suspension seems appropriate if not downright dismissal, but as with everything stemming from civil rights, it’s one step forward two steps back even today. Media outlets reported August 29 Dan Page’s status had shifted from suspended to retired, slated to receive full pension. This, this is what passes for justice in forgotten area, small town, touted small government America; cop inflames volatile situation in full view of news broadcast soon to be seen globally, is heard on horrifying video going back months disparaging large portions of his community he has to work with daily, rather than facing censure, sanction, discipline, he is allowed to retire, retire with full benefits, really? In 2014, not 1960, here is how we handle race relations, clear examples of bias; we allow the obviously guilty party to retire, quietly exit public view, hopping everyone forgets who he is, what he’s done rather than demonstrating to your community it is the 21st century, we will act accordingly. Upholding the stark difference between political correctness, many believe gone too far, and undeniable right and wrong, holding to a higher standard those in authority, those responsible for policing, upholding the law. And outsiders, members of the privileged Caucasian, heterosexual middle class, never have to have that conversation with their kids wonder why people in Ferguson are demanding transparency, are insistent police do their jobs appropriately absent looking like they are coving their own interests, covering their own mistakes, because they know what they have been subjected to, Michael Brown’s lifeless body in the street a grotesque, culminating representation of it all. A death that, didn’t have to happen, probably wouldn’t have happened if Ferguson and surrounding small community areas didn’t employ cops harboring the above mentality, if police training didn’t reinforce these destructively negative stereotypes, attitudes. Dan Page shouldn’t be retiring and he certainly shouldn’t be receiving a pension courtesy of the state of Missouri; once that video was authenticated, his identity confirmed, entirety of the tape viewed to check words, phrases, meanings weren’t taken out of context, he should have been fired lucky if all his previous arrests and cases weren’t reopened and subject to scrutiny possibly acquitting actual criminals, what usually happens when a corrupt, biased cop is revealed.    

Sadly we can go beyond Ferguson to see mounting instances of police who obviously have no idea what they are doing exemplified, if not before now, by the case of John Crawford III; Crawford was the 22 year old young man gunned down by police in a Wal-Mart after they received a 911 call about a person waiving a gun around, pointing it at people, caller remarking during the call “he’s reloading right now.” So it’s little wonder police went in “guns blazing,” if you will, after the call being characterized like that; sickeningly, particularly for the deceased Crawford and his grieving family, turns out, the “loaded” gun was an airsoft rifle that shoots BB’s not bullets, sold right there in Wal-Mart, he picked up while shopping in the store, for all we know intended to purchase it before leaving, unloaded at the time of the incident. The 911 caller who afterward was bragging to press he was a former marine, lending credence to his claims, was actually in military training for 7 weeks before they discovered a previously undisclosed heart condition determining his enlistment to be fraudulent; continuing, when pressed by investigative reporters working for MSNBC and others, he recanted much of his story about whether or not Crawford was indeed pointing the gun let alone at people vs. simply carrying it, shifting it from one shoulder to another as he walks through store aisles. Realities that line up with in store surveillance camera footage when viewed by Crawford’s parents they thought was malfunctioning, because at one point Crawford is seen standing still, gun on shoulder looking at something in the aisle; his father wondering then how he could be deemed a threat if he is not behaving erratically, not shouting, drawing attention to himself and stationary, standing completely still. Needless to say at this point, police while having already expediently released dash cam footage of the incident, blatantly refuse to release store tapes to the public, yet in a strange move angering the family and their attorney, had no problem allegedly showing it a witness during the course of gathering his statements on what he said happened that night. Confusing, since people will automatically be influenced by the images seen, incorporate it into their consciousness, memory without realizing they are doing so; pointing to again police doing whatever they have to, to cover themselves at the expense of justice, at the expense of refining policies so people don’t have to die like this because of a mistake. Further, people misconstrue, overreact, misinterpret situations all the time, but when you call the police to come handle something you know is beyond you, something they  are trained to handle and you are not, you expect them to, here’s a hint, be able to handle it effectively. When they rolled up on that Wal-Mart, went inside, and didn’t see people running, screaming, hysterical, cowering in fear, the fear they saw was fear at seeing cops storm the store, when they ask people, where is the guy with the gun, and most don’t know what you’re talking about, those are giant clues maybe the person who called got it wrong. Factoring in the common knowledge every Wal-Mart nationwide has a gun section that including actual guns, bullets, accessories carries also BB guns, BB rifles and the connection isn’t that hard to make. We know police must make split second decisions where lives could be on the line, but when you come onto the actual scene, enter the actual location and nothing matches up to the call, it’s time to slow down and reevaluate what’s going on in front of you.    

The absolute icing on the cake exposing the sad state of police in America has to be the death of a sound crew member filming on location in Nebraska for the TV show COPS, shot by police as they attempted to apprehend a suspect in the commission of a robbery; the absolute crowning glory of dis-achievement has to be once more finding out that the “gun,” causing police to open fire killing a civilian on top of the suspect, was again an airsoft, plastic pellet gun. At least here someone was using it to commit a crime, though commenters on the story note airsoft pistols, rifles exc. have a distinctly different sound compared to the real thing; plus the crew member had been on the job 7 years, far from his first rodeo, as they say, filming in a potentially dangerous situation, leaving commenters to speculate the reason they thought the robbery suspect was firing was because they were already shooting. Next how does a police bullet find its way past a person, civilian or not’s, bullet proof vest; telling too is that in the 25 odd years the show COPS has done ride alongs with police to gather footage, something like this has never happened, until now. So what has changed in modern era policing, modern era criminality; not much of the latter taking in the circumstances, that they weren’t responding to a mass shooting, a crazed gunman high off the latest drug, someone like the person who ambushed troopers in the North East with obvious weapons training, rather a fairly standard armed robbery police are trained to deal with. What has changed is the mentality, personality of police, adopting an us versus them attitude when approaching protests, conflict situations as opposed to peace keeping and conflict resolution, officers wearing badges obsessed with the power it gives them, the implied carte blanche to rid the world of their pet peeves not solely adhere to the law. Every instance belying the disseminated perception these are isolated incidents; these are not isolated occurring in every corner of the country. Kametra Barbour in Texas, Oriana Farrell in New Mexico, Michael Brown and the biased cop both in Missouri, the COPS shooting out of Nebraska, John Crawford III in Ohio, Eric Garner in New York and Marlene Pinnock in California. This is rather par for the course concerning policing in the 21st century, so armed with riot and tactical gear that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, so desperate for officers, so paranoid about things that have happened to police in other areas, in the past, people who aren’t psychologically fit for the job hold it anyway, officers so nervous they aren’t assessing what’s in front of them and we the public contend with headlines like all of these making the news, praying we are never stopped, never incur a speeding ticket or walk through a Wal-Mart while someone purchases a BB gun.