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A conversation on the one of the more malignant aspects of the current social zeitgeist.

History – A tonic to aid in understanding the higgly-piggly we have today.

Two very interesting articles about police conduct came out this week, particularly interesting if you juxtapose them.

Ferguson and the cult of compliance

In cases that seem very different, separated by factors such as age, race, gender, sexuality, geography, class and ability, police explain away their actions by citing noncompliance. They do it because it works. They do it because according to their beliefs, any sign of noncompliance is an invitation to strike.

First, we have to recognize the common denominators in many of these incidents: that people who die at the hands of the police don’t obey commands and that the police initiate violence, despite there being no imminent threat to their safety.

Brown’s story is now well known. According to an eyewitness, a police officer told Brown, an 18-year-old black man, to “get the f— onto the sidewalk.” He didn’t comply, the incident escalated, and he got shot repeatedly.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of similar examples in which noncompliance led to violence. Ersula Ore, a black woman in Arizona refused to hand over her ID and was flung to the ground. A drunk woman in Skokie, Illinois, didn’t look into the camera when being booked, so the police threw her onto a bench, breaking her face. They claimed she was resisting arrest.

Some victims — Eric Garner, James Boyd and Nicholas Davis, to name just a few — die. Others, such as Antonio Martinez, just get beaten. Every time, the police explain their conduct by citing noncompliance. Cameras can provide a counternarrative to police tales of noncompliance, showing that Garner was peaceful and that Ore was a professor on her own campus.

But here’s the worst thing: Most of the victims of this cult of compliance are invisible. They receive no media coverage. Their stories get buried in plea deals. They are told that fighting bogus charges will just make matters worse. When police violence targets people who have suffered it for so long, it takes something unusual to bring it to light.

And then, written by a senior police officer involved in training other officers:

I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.

…officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety.

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.

And the flipside of the cult of compliance: On May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodgers killed six people and wounded thirteen others before taking his own life. It all could have been stopped on April 30, when police responded to concerns from Rodgers’ family about his social media posts. Rodgers was polite and compliant, telling the officers “it was a misunderstanding and that he was not going to hurt anyone or himself. Rodger said he was having troubles with his social life.” The officers determined he did not present a threat, called his mother to reassure her, and left.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this… On the one hand, it’s super-hard being a cop, I won’t deny that. Any mistake you make, whether it’s reacting too much or too little, can get people killed. On the other, clearly whether or not a person instantly and cheerfully submits, is an utterly piss-poor indication of a person’s threat level. And enforcing the law is not the same thing as demanding instant submission.

I remember as a child, being taught that the police were there to protect me. I lost that belief a long time ago. I wonder how much worse it must be for people who aren’t white and affluent-looking.

Cameron Russell shows us the power of image and how our perceptions shape our reality.

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