‘Power Up the Local Police’: A Formula for Despotism

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New Hampshire State Rep. Robert Kingsbury, as Laurence Vance points out, exhorts Americans to support their “local” police as a buffer against the federal government (“Power Up the Local Police,” letter to the editor, August 6). Were he to focus his attention on the behavior of police agencies in his own backyard, Rep. Kingsbury might appreciate the fact that the “local” police are implicated in most of the institutionalized evil committed by government — and, like the Feds, are unaccountable to the public.

Just days ago, a jury in Manchester, N.H. convicted Adam Mueller of spurious “wiretapping” charges for the purported crime of recording and publicizing telephone interviews with local police officials. Muller, who is more commonly known as Ademo Freeman (and will hereafter be referred to as Ademo), founded an activist group called CopBlock.org, which documents criminal abuse by police officers.

Last October, a police officer named Darren Murphy was videotaped assaulting a student at a local high school. Ademo called the school and the police department seeking comments about the matter from officials who are, in principle, accountable to the public. Despite the fact that public officials acting in their official roles have no legal expectation of privacy, the County Prosecutor charged Ademo with violating the state’s wiretapping law.

After initially being threatened with 21 years in a cage, Ademo was given a sentence of three months in prison — for the supposed offense of seeking to make local police accountable to the public they supposedly serve and protect.

According to the dogma of the national Support Your Local Police Committee, which Rep. Kingsbury eagerly endorses, citizens have a moral duty to render unqualified, unconditional support to the police, and use what influence they have to counteract any public criticism of “local” law enforcement.

In the words of the SYLP Committee’s “start-up manual”:

“We urge all responsible citizens in this community to…[s]upport our local police in the performance of their duties [and] oppose all harassment or interference with law enforcement personnel as they carry out their assigned tasks.... [We must accept] our responsibilities to our local police, to defend them against unjust attacks, make them proud and secure in their vital profession, and to offer them our support in word and deed wherever possible.” (Emphasis added.)

Rep. Kingsbury insists that by supporting their local police, Americans will counteract efforts to federalize them. The official position of the Support Your Local Police Committee, however, is that it is improper for citizens to criticize the “local” police after they have been assimilated by the federal Homeland Security apparatus:

“The local police are not your enemy. Your committee is not here to attack them, blame them for violating the Constitution or your civil liberties because they are enforcing a measure of the Patriot Act or conducting a joint Federal and State anti-terror drill. Those are federal issues, which the local police in some cases may have already have little to no say if they are to continue receiving their additional Homeland Security funds, new equipment and weaponry….” (Emphasis added.)

That directive provides the critical context for the familiar SYLP mantra: “Support Our Local Police – And Keep Them Independent” – that is, keep them “independent” of local accountability.  This is to continue even after the Feds have consolidated their control over the municipal police.

This is not a scene from “Red Dawn.”

We can see the SYLP worldview on display in Anaheim, California.

Several weeks ago, police murdered (no other word is adequate) an unarmed young man named Manuel Diaz, who was described as a “documented gang member.” This is the domestic equivalent of being a “suspected militant” in Iraq or Afghanistan, and thus being subject to summary imprisonment or execution.

Diaz, who wasn’t suspected of a specific crime, fled when he was approached by members of a “gang suppression unit.” (Isn’t there something innately wrong – and very revealing – about a police unit with the word “suppression” in its name?) He was shot twice — once in the leg, then in the back of the head. A platoon of police soon arrived. Rather than rendering aid to Diaz, or calling paramedics to do so, the officers ignored the victim as he bled to death, focusing their efforts on crowd control (in the interests of “officer safety,” of course).

When a protest coalesced at the crime scene, additional reinforcements — in the form of heavily armed riot police — soon materialized. The stormtroopers were captured on video firing a fusillade of “less lethal” ammunition — such as rubber bullets and pepper-ball and bean bag rounds — into a crowd of unarmed and terrified citizens. One officer unleashed a police dog that made a beeline for a stroller containing an infant; the baby would have been killed if a bystander — who was mauled by the attack dog — hadn’t come to the child’s defense.

Since 2002, notes Stephen Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Anaheim and Orange County have received about $100 million from the federal government … to bring operations up to twenty-first century speed in the age of terror.” Those federal subsidies were intended to fortify the ability of local police to suppress, rather than protect, the public. This has been made clear by the Anaheim PD’s behavior as public outrage mounted over the killing of Manuel Diaz (and several other young men) and the brutal crack-down on subsequent protests.

Dispensing with any pretense of being a civilian “peace officer” agency, the department deployed officers wielding fully automatic weapons and clothed in the same attire worn by occupation forces abroad. Snipers nested on local rooftops; at least one undercover officer infiltrated a protest to act as an informant/provocateur.

With the police imposing federally subsidized martial law on some Anaheim neighborhoods, a group of local citizens calling itself SOAP (Support Our Anaheim Police) faithfully followed the SYLP playbook by providing blanket support for the department and condemning its critics. During a public meeting at a local high school, one Anaheim PD supporter insisted that it was the duty of citizens to sustain the department “without compromise.” Shortly thereafter, the same speaker interrupted the remarks Genevieve Huizar, mother of Manuel Diaz, who – speaking with dignified composure – urged that justice be done for her murdered son.

“You’re a horrible mother – you had a gang-banger as a brother!” snarled the civic-minded police supporter, his face contorted in undisguised hatred as he hastily retreated from the auditorium.

In urging Americans to “power up the local police,” Rep. Kingsbury insists that “all lawful police work is local.” The SYLP’s view, however, is that all local police work is lawful — or at least that it should be regarded as such. This is a formula for totalitarianism.

10:24 am on August 23, 2012