The Police: Useless, But Not Harmless

Recently by William Norman Grigg: The Aurora Massacre and the ‘Propaganda of the Deed’

The bad news for Rafael Lopez was that the 27-year-old Iraq war veteran had been robbed and severely beaten by a gang of at least 10 men on the street outside the Aqua nightclub in Minneapolis. The good news — or Lopez initially thought — was that the assault took place less than ten yards away from the 1st Police Precinct station.

Bruised and bloodied, Lopez attempted to enter the station to file a complaint, only to be met by Officer Aaron Hanson, who angrily told him to leave. As Lopez tried to explain what had just happened to him, two of Hanson's comrades "came out, put their gloves on and were yelling at me, telling me to get out," he later recalled.

This was the second time that evening that the intrepid Officer Hanson of the Minneapolis PD had consciously refused to come to the aid of Lopez and his friends.

Lopez had come to the aid of his friend Joshua Rivera, whose wife Magdalena was being harassed and intimidated by a pack of street thugs. While trying to escort Magdalena to safety, he was blind-sided by several of the goons. When Rivera came to Lopez's aid, he was swarmed and beaten unconscious. Magdalena ran to the police station to seek help. She was able to get through the front door, but found that the inner door was locked. She managed to get Hanson's attention and frantically gestured for him to come out, "but he just shrugged his shoulders," she recounted.

Magdalena went back outside and borrowed a cell phone to call 911. A few minutes later — long after he could have provided any help — Hanson ambled outside. After Magdalena described what had happened to her husband and their friend, the officer blithely explained "that he didn't need to deal with this because it happens all the time," she testified in an official complaint. Without offering to call an ambulance, or even asking if anybody had been seriously hurt, Hanson quickly retreated into the station and locked the door behind him. It was "literally 10 seconds and he was already going back inside," Magdalena observes.

Later that morning, Lopez went back to the station to file an incident report.

"He figured police surveillance cameras on the street and at the police station captured the assault," related the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "He hoped the videos would lead to the identity of the assailants, whom he suspected were members of a gang because they were all wearing white and red shirts. It turned out he wasted his time."

A few days after the September 2, 2011 assault, the Minneapolis PD dispatched an official notice to Lopez informing him that "this case does not meet our threshold for investigative assignment at the present time." 

If the gallant men of the Minneapolis PD can't be bothered to investigate a violent gang rampage that took place less than thirty feet from a precinct station — in full view of the department's surveillance cameras — how can the department justify its existence?

As the Pioneer-Press noted, "the building would have emptied had it been a member in blue being pounced on outside." This is proven, ironically, by the actions of Officer Aaron Hanson in an incident that took place seven years earlier.

During the May 2004 "Art-A-Whirl" festival in downtown Minneapolis, two off-duty officers – Robert Kroll and Wallace Krueger — got their skivvies in a bind when a pedestrian named Jackson Mahaffy accidentally hit Krueger's car with a shoulder bag. The officers tracked down Mahaffy, threw him to the ground, and began to kick and punch him on the pretext of issuing a citation for "misdemeanor damage to property."

Kroll called police dispatch to report "damage of property and an assault" and request assistance. A few minutes later, several squad cars converged on the scene, one of which decanted the valorous Officer Hanson, who quickly established his “command authority” by beating up a woman. 

Mahaffy was kidnapped and detained by the Minneapolis PD on patently bogus charges — assault on an officer, damage to property, and inciting a riot — which were promptly dropped by the City Attorney. Mahaffy's lawsuit against the department was dismissed on the familiar and patently spurious grounds of "qualified immunity." 

In his lawsuit, Mahaffy noted Officer Hanson and his partner arrested him without conducting an investigation — which would have meant, at very least, hearing his side of the story and interviewing eyewitnesses on the scene. In its ruling dismissing thelawsuit, the U.S. District Court for Minnesota noted that Hanson and his partner "responded to a call indicating an off-duty officer needed assistance. Under such circumstances, officer safety is considered the first priority." (Emphasis added.)

Of course, officer safety is ever and always the first — and only — priority.

Accordingly, when mere Mundanes were beaten and robbed in front of the precinct station, it was entirely appropriate for Hanson to cower behind a locked door, and then seek reinforcements to help repel persistent pleas for aid from the victims. For the same reason, when a Mundane was beaten by fellow officers as summary punishment for accidentally inflicting trivial damage on a cop's automobile, however, the department responded in force when the assailants called for "assistance." 

By coming to the aid of his friends, Rafael Lopez acted as a peace officer — an individual who interposed himself to protect innocent people from criminal violence. Officer Hanson, who fraudulently collects a tax-funded paycheck for supposedly providing that service, was studiously indifferent to any consideration apart from his own physical safety and the institutional needs of his department. This is exactly what we should expect from a state functionary of his ilk. We should be grateful to him for offering such a compelling illustration of the fact that government police agencies are useless — but not harmless.

A more recent illustration was provided last Thursday (July 26) during a drug store robbery in Portland, Oregon.

Shortly after noon, Rob Anderson, who owns a computer software store, sauntered over to nearby Central Drugs to buy some aspirin.

"I didn't notice anything until the pharmacist behind the counter yelled for us to `Get out of here! We're closed!" Anderson told the Oregonian. "I thought that was kind of weird."

Anderson wasn't aware that just a few minutes earlier, a robber – later identified as Jocelin Olson – had entered the store with his hand concealed in a pocket.

"I have a gun!" Olson bellowed. He fled with a bag of prescription drugs.

Anderson, who had seen enough to recognize that a robbery was underway, spotted a uniformed officer in a marked police car, and informed the valiant defender of the public weal that a robbery was in progress a block away. The heroic paladin of public order replied that he was off duty and told Anderson to call 911. He then rolled up his window and drove away.

"We all expect a little better from the police in this situation," Anderson later recalled, expressing entirely appropriate disgust – and entirely undeserved confidence in the character and competence of government law enforcement officers.

While the officer, in compliance with the Prime Directive of law enforcement, "officer safety," was making himself scarce, two employees of the drugstore – one of whom had obtained his personal firearm – gave chase to the bandit, eventually tracking him down and arresting him without the aid of the exalted personages in government-issued official attire. One of them restrained the suspect (who had only feigned carrying a gun) in a half-nelson hold until the police tardily arrived.

The Portland Police Department refuses to identify the police officer who fled the scene rather than tangle with an (apparently) armed robber. That officer would most likely have been as bold as Hector if he had been dealing with an unarmed 12-year-old girl, or a skinny, unarmed, mentally handicapped street person. 

Portland Police Officer Chris Humphreys — who, as we'll shortly see, is regarded as exemplary by that department – shot the former at point-blank range with a beanbag round. In a separate incident,  Humphreys – with the help of three colleagues – chased down and beat to death the latter, a 145-pound schizophrenic named James Chasse.  

On another occasion, Humphreys beat a helpless man 30 times with a baton before discovering that the victim wasn't the suspect he was pursuing.

Humphreys was placed on paid vacation after shooting the 12-year-old girl. That prompted a complaint from Sgt. Scott Westermann, commissar of the local police union, who insisted that Humphreys "exemplified everything one could imagine a police officer should be.” 

Humphreys and another officer were eventually given two-week suspensions for the killing of James Chasse – a trivial “punishment” which was reversed by an arbitrator exactly two weeks before one of their comrades helpfully displayed the utter uselessness of the agency that employs them.

Upset over public criticism of his tax-funded criminal career, Humphreys filed for "stress disability," and his brethren in the police union – insisting that he had "suffered enough" – held a rally at City Hall. Each of them wore a custom t-shirts bearing the unwittingly incriminating inscription: "I Am Chris Humphreys."

Police departments exist to enforce the will of the municipal corporations that employ them. Any actual service they render with respect to the protection of person and property is incidental to that mission. Fortunately — albeit tardily — tax victims across the country are finally starting to understand this fact, as the financial burden of supporting the state's enforcement caste becomes unbearable

"Traditionally, U.S. voters have backed generous pay and benefits for the cops and firefighters willing to risk their lives to keep citizens safe," notes a Reuters report (that dutifully regurgitates the official myth that police departments actually serve the interests of public safety). "But as economic conditions have worsened and many local governments have run into severe fiscal problems, that attitude has started to change. Since the 2007 recession, some cities have tried to roll back pension benefits and pay, among the most rigid and, in some cases, highest expenses in municipal budgets."

A suitable example is offered by the City of North Las Vegas, which – reeling from the catastrophic collapse of the real estate market and shackled by untenable union salary and benefit agreements – has declared itself an economic "disaster area." 

"We are in a fiscal emergency," City Council Member Wade Wagner told the Washington Post. "North Las Vegas is ground zero basically for foreclosures in the nation…. So because our property taxes have declined so much, we really had to invoke this [emergency statute]."

North Las Vegas spends most of its tax funding (66 percent) on "public safety.” It's not as if police officers in that city serve on sacrificial terms: A police officer like Kent Marscheck, whose base salary is $55,000, can pull down a total of $200,000 a year in overtime and other benefits, and a police sergeant like Bradley Walch – whose base salary is $61,000 – can receive more than $237,000 in total compensation. 

The city suspended its union contracts with the police and fire department on June 15. Predictably, the police union filed a lawsuit against the city government to prevent layoffs.

Thanks to the intervention of Sen. Harry Reid, the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS) provided a $1.75 million grant to the North Las Vegas Police Department.  This money will go to pay the partial salaries of 14 officers — if, that is, the city government can wrangle $3.2 million in matching funds from the cash-strapped taxpayers or leery bond investors. If this deal is consummated, the result will be the worst of both worlds for city residents: They will pay more for a unionized “local” police force that is effectively controlled by Washington, and entirely unaccountable to them.

Then again, all police departments consider themselves unaccountable to the populations they supposedly serve.

Two years ago, Chris Mesley — who serves as spokesthug for the Albany, New York Police Officers Union — gave eloquent expression to the disdain the armed tax-feeders have for the citizens whose paychecks they plunder: "If I'm the bad guy to the average citizen … and their taxes have to go up to cover my raise, I'm very sorry about that, but I have to look out for myself and my membership… As the president of the `local,’ I will not accept `zeroes’ [no increase in salaries or benefits]. If that means … ticking off some taxpayers, then so be it.”

In a public comment offered at a meeting of the Common Council, an Albany resident who identified himself as “Justin” pointed out that the city’s median annual household income in 2009 was about $33,000. In the same year, Mesley – who was hired as a patrol officer in 1992 – received a base salary of $70,289, while also devouring at least another $30,000 for serving as union president. During 2008 and 2009, Mesley's union contract provided “retroactive raises” of four percent; this happened at time when the productive economy was shrinking and raises of any kind were practically unheard of by people who, unlike Mesley and his chums, earn an honest living.

“Chris Mesley is making three times or more the median salary and is complaining that he might not get a raise,” Justin observed. “The sense of entitlement of Chris Mesley and all those who think alike has led to the pilfering of state and city coffers. They are like leeches, sucking the taxpayers dry, and that’s an insult to leeches. At least leeches know when to let go.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg played to that inexhaustible sense of entitlement when he suggested that police nationwide should go on strike until the law-abiding public disarms itself.

"I don't understand why the police officers in this country don't stand up collectively and say, `we're going to go on strike," Bloomberg blurted in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan. "We're not going to protect you unless you – the public – through your legislature do what's required to keep us safe. After all, police officers want to go home to their families."

Given that the police don't protect us, we'd be immeasurably better off if all of them went home to their families — permanently.