Posted by: Rachel | May 1, 2015

Calling for a Serpico

I’ve resisted for so long. Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Eric Garner, the list goes on. And each time I’ve kept my mouth shut, been a good girl. But the time for silence has come and gone.

One of the reasons I have not spoken out before is this: What good can come from it? So many people have an opinion and they aren’t going to change their mind. I try not to engage in discussions where the only result is bitterness and anger. So I want to be very aware of that. It seems these conversations tend to go like this: Person A: Police brutality is wrong. Person B: But is rioting the way to change things. Person A: But police need to behave better. Person B: But burning a city is stupid.  And on and on and on……

This country needs to have a serious conversation about police violence and brutality. Law enforcement officers have a difficult job. It’s a bit like raising children, sometimes you will get very upset at those you are in charge of. But as parents we know that to hit our children in a fit of anger is an absolute no-no. Even worse is to beat them while being calmly dispassionate. So why is police brutality so glorified in our culture? TV shows like ’24’ and ‘Chicago PD’ make torture and violence by the ‘good guys’ seem positively righteous. Can you imagine the outrage if a TV show would glorify child beating in a similar way to that which Sergeant Voight is portrayed?

We tend to think that criminals deserved it. Unfortunately it isn’t always the criminals who get abused. The police are NOT the judge and the jury, their job is not to punish, only to detain. When punishment is brought by the wrong people we run into huge problems.  Anyone remember Jonathan Eichelman? On June 2nd of 2013, a man shot at a vehicle after an argument in a local Taco Bell parking lot. A bullet hit two year old Pedro Melendez. As happens when an innocent child get hurt, all of Lancaster County was outraged. Some time later Jonathon Eichelman was arrested because he had a green SUV and a gun similar to what was used. The following is what happened to Eichelman:

Eichelman was placed in an area known as the “tank” with six other inmates, the suit alleges. While in the holding cell, an inmate punched him in the head.

When Eichelman asked the inmate why he punched him, the man replied, “The guard said you were sexually abusing little boys,” according to the suit.

The guards confused Eichelman with another man charged with rape who was brought into the prison that same day, the lawsuit alleges.

Before Eichelman reached cell block 3-I, which houses violent inmates, a prison guard announced Eichelman had shot a child and was a rapist, the suit alleges. The inmates whistled and shouted at Eichelman.

On June 5, according to the suit, an inmate told Eichelman “he was going to be his (expletive) and to accept everything that happened to him like a man.”

The next day, a corrections officer told several inmates, “That … shot a child. I don’t care what happens to him,” the suit alleges.

The officer also asked the inmates, “Are you going to let him get away with shooting that kid? What are you guys going to do? We’re counting on you,” according to the suit.

A short time later, the door to Eichelman’s cell was opened, and several inmates rushed inside, the suit alleges.

They threw Eichelman’s cellmate out and closed the door, according to the suit. The group then beat Eichelman as he screamed, “Help, help! Someone help me!”

The suit alleges at least five corrections officers were in the vicinity of Eichelman’s cell but did not intervene in the attack.

“They observed the assault, heard (Eichelman’s) cry for help, but deliberately and maliciously failed to do anything to intervene or stop the assault,” the lawsuit contends.

After the beating, Eichelman walked out of his cell with blood oozing from his face, nose and eyes, according to the suit. He encountered a group of corrections officers wearing rubber gloves who were laughing at him.   excerpt from 

Four days later Eichelman was released because evidence was found showing that he was NOT GUILTY. The guards and inmates were all treating him as if he was already proven guilty and that was not their responsibility. Can you imagine being arrested for something you didn’t do and having this happen? I see memes on Facebook that say ‘Don’t want to get shot by the cops? Then don’t break the law.’ It’s not that simple, folks. Anyway, in the end Eichelman got a $500,000 settlement. You want to complain about welfare recipients bilking the system? Start complaining about bad police officers who have cost the city of Baltimore more than $12 millions dollars in lawsuits. ($5.7 mil in money paid to victims, and $5.8 mil in money spent on lawyers to defend those lawsuits. I’m not sure what is more disgusting, the fact that there is so much police brutality or that the lawyers are making more money than the victims.)

So A: we need to stop glorifying police brutality. We need to make police officers accountable for violence. Too many times they are allowed to keep their jobs after being abusive of their authority.

I’m going to post links to some articles I’ve found interesting
This article was published by the Baltimore Sun last fall. Police brutality has been an ongoing problem in Baltimore. Freddie Gray is not an anomaly.
Nonviolence as Compliance. I like this one from The Atlantic, it contains this great quote ‘When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.’
And this by Lonnae O’Neal 

Earlier I compared law enforcement to parents. I want to take that analogy further. When parents abuse their authority continually and don’t apologize, then children become hardened. They no longer have any respect for the parents. They may still behave appropriately but underneath they are a simmering volcano ready to erupt. The same thing will happen to a culture that is beaten without remorse or consequences. You cannot have people live in chronically depressed areas rife with police brutality and then expect them to find proper ways to channel their frustration.

I keep seeing these videos from people telling the rioters to stop destroying the city. These videos are especially popular when it’s a black person who is narrating. I’ve yet to see one video where a police officer tells other members of law enforcement to stop brutalizing people. Where are these videos? Where is our Serpico?




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