View Us as Little More Than Collateral Damage
by Steven Greenhut: Trying
To Reform Government Is Largely a Waste of Time
Saturday, February 9, 11:30am EST
rarely witness the kind of full-scale manhunt now going on throughout
Southern California and the San Bernardino mountains as hundreds
of heavily armed police and federal agents hunt down Christopher
33-year-old former Los Angeles cop and former Naval officer suspected
of three murders.
routine in Southern California, but this one is different. As Reuters
reported, Dorner is "a fugitive former police officer accused
of declaring war on law enforcement in an Internet manifesto."
He allegedly shot two officers in Riverside, killing one of them,
and also allegedly murdered the daughter of the former police captain
who unsuccessfully represented him in the disciplinary proceedings
that led to his firing.
about police protecting the public, but police protecting themselves.
When one of "theirs" is threatened or killed, police act
like invaders. And like any invading army, the public can expect
collateral damage. While the national media focused on the basics
of the manhunt, there have been too-few reports on the casualties
of the ramped-up police presence.
Hernandez, 71, was delivering the Los Angeles Times with
her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, in the 19500 block of Redbeam
Avenue in Torrance on Thursday morning when Los Angeles police detectives
apparently mistook their pickup for that of Christopher Dorner,
the 33-year-old fugitive suspected of killing three people and injuring
two others," according
to a Los Angeles Times blog. "Hernandez,
who attorney Glen T. Jonas said was shot twice in the back, was
in stable condition late Thursday. Carranza received stitches on
quotation from Jonas was priceless: "The problem with
the situation is it looked like the police had the goal of administering
street justice and in so doing, didn't take the time to notice that
these two older, small Latina women don't look like a large black
reports, Dorner was driving a different color and different make
of Japanese truck from Hernandez and Carranza, but whatever. If
I were in Southern California this week, I’d keep the Toyota or
Nissan truck in the garage given the number of police eager to mete
out "street justice." Police defenders will no doubt argue
that this was a fluke, a case of a poorly trained cop overreacting
(because he certainly believed his life to be in danger).
for police brutality will have a hard time with this case. As the
Times blog also reported: "About 25 minutes after the shooting,
Torrance police opened fire after spotting another truck similar
to Dorner’s at Flagler Lane and Beryl Street." Fortunately,
no one was hurt at that one. If there were injuries, the cops would
just shrug it off. The second shooting reminds us that this is how
police will routinely behave. Police officials will then adamantly
defend this behavior even in the federal court system.
a case that just recently headed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal
highlights the disturbing attitude of police officials toward innocent
bystanders. The following are details from plaintiffs, in their
lawsuit against the city of Sacramento and two of its "finest":
On April 10,
2009, California Highway Patrol officers stopped a Honda Civic for
having illegal taillights. As the officers approached the car, the
driver, Manual Prasad, drove away and eventually crashed his car
into a wall and started running in a residential neighborhood. Sacramento
city police were called and used their helicopter to pinpoint the
fleeing man who climbed a tree in a backyard.
Garcia and six of his friends had the misfortune of being in the
yard where Prassad was hiding out. Without any apparent warning
and without checking to see if there were innocent bystanders, the
officer released a police dog into the yard. Police dogs are trained
to attack and hold suspects, but they are not trained to distinguish
between suspects and bystanders.
headed into the yard, spotted the first person he saw (Garcia) and
did what vicious police dogs do to people: bit the heck out of him
and held him at the ground, as its teeth punctured Garcia’s leg
in several places.
and the city of Sacramento argue that this behavior did not violate
Garcia’s rights and of course sought every type of immunity to delay
the case and keep its officers from facing discipline. The city
argued that giving an adequate warning could – let’s repeat it now
in unison, given that this is the trump card police always use –
"jeopardize officer safety."
a few years ago, police were tracking a burglary suspect through
a neighborhood. A young newlywed came out of his house with a wooden
dowel to see what the ruckus was about. The officer shot the bystander
to death, then handcuffed him as he lay dying. Police officers reportedly
were angry at the chief for apologizing to the family.
That case epitomizes
the "us vs. them" mentality common among our highly militarized
police forces. I wasn’t surprised, then, when years later the Anaheim
Police Department acted like an invading army after residents
protested some deadly shootings by police (including, apparently,
the shooting of an unarmed man in the back).
pursue suspects, it is official, acceptable policy for officers
to do anything they need to do to protect their own safety, even
if it endangers the public’s safety. My advice – if you see police
anywhere near you, stay very far away. And hope they don’t mistake
your car for a suspect’s car. In their view, we are only potential
Greenhut (send him mail)
is a Sacramento-based writer and author of Plunder!
How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our
Lives And Bankrupting The Nation.
© 2013 Steven Greenhut