To Protect and Serve

Throughout the country, we have heard harrowing reports of the boys in blue abusing their power or using excessive force time and time. Within the past three weeks, three different members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) have been accused of shooting a weapon while drunk and off duty.

NYPD Officer Brendan Cronin shot at a random motorist and his passenger a total of thirteen times after a night of drinking at a bar. Joe Felice, the passenger, was hit six times throughout his torso but luckily enough he did not die and was declared as being in stable condition. Cronin fled the scene. After receiving a 911 call about a man driving frantically with his hazards lights on from motorists, the police chased Cronin down and managed to get him to pull over. When confronted by officers, Cronin brandished a gun and they needed to coax him to toss the weapon out his car window and surrender. Once out, he refused to take a breathalyzer test. Cronin plead not guilty and is currently being held on $250,000 bail.

A couple hours after this incident, NYPD Sergeant Wanda Anthony spotted her ex-boyfriend with his new fling outside a strip club in New Jersey. Drunk and biter that her ex was seeing someone else, Anthony fired a single shot, which thankfully did not hit anyone. She allegedly fled the scene but was apprehended a short time later for drunk driving.

The most recent case of inappropriate police behavior from the NYPD comes courtesy of Detective Jay Poggi. After a night of heavy drinking with another fellow member of the NYPD, Poggi thought it would be a good idea to show his friend the hammer of his gun. This show-and-tell quickly took a turn for the worse and Poggi accidentally shot his friend in the wrist. Poggi drove him to the hospital, which is what any friend should do– except Poggi had a blood alcohol content of 0.11 percent. The legal blood alcohol content in New York is 0.08 percent. Sources state that Poggi left the NYPD on his own accord and is due back in court mid next month.

The NYPD immediately went into clean-up mode and in an attempt to better their image, they started a hashtag campaign. The premise was simple enough, Twitter users would take a picture with a member of the NYPD and hashtag it #MyNYPD for a chance to be feature on the NYPD’s Facebook page. The NYPD’s PR guy must have thought nothing bad could possibly happen with this hashtag campaign.

Within hours of the NYPD’s tweet, the hashtag #MyNYPD was inundate with pictures like the one above, depicting police brutality or use of excessive force at the hands of NYPD officers. nypd2

nypd3

But of course, New York is just one (gargantuan) city with one (ineffective) police department. Surely, this can’t be representative of police throughout the country. Right?

Another hotbed of police brutality is Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a recent string of excessive force by the local police department has led a group of protesters to take over a City Council meeting on Monday. About an hour into the meeting, chaos erupted and soon the protesters were demanding that both the Mayor and the Chief of police resign their positions. The prosters were quoted as being tired of the lack of action by the APD or the city and called what they were doing “democracy in action”.

This act of protest comes on the heels of a death of an Albuquerque man at the hands of police. Armand Martin, an Albuquerque man, barricaded himself inside his home after a domestic dispute. The SWAT team arrived on scene promptly. After a tense  and lengthy standoff with the officers where he threatened to shoot his wife and children, Martin stepped out of his house and fired shots with two separate handguns and a SWAT officer answered with a single shot, killing Martin.

Martin's house after the standoff.
Martin’s house after the standoff.

At first, this shooting might seem pretty black and white, cut and dry. Martin was armed and he threatened to kill his family members and even open fired on SWAT officers. Many would say they were justified in opening fire on him. But as more of Martin’s background details emerged, the situation became a little more ambiguous. Martin was an Air Force veteran and was treated several times at the local Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospital for mental health issues. When the police department pressed the hospital to release his medical records, they refused. Martin apparently had a history of suicide attempts prior to this.

The Department of Justice actually released a report on the Albuquerque police department a month earlier, in which they state “…the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law.” The DOJ also  states that “APD officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat and in situations where the conduct of the officers heightens the danger and contributes to the need to use force,” and lists the SWAT as the department’s biggest problem causer. The Albuquerque police department has been involved with 20+ lethal police shootings, most of which were found unconstitutional by the DOJ.

Just yesterday, members of the Nassau, Long Island police department pulled over Kyle Howell for a routine traffic stop. When all was said and done, Howell ended up with a broken nose, bone fractures near his eyes, and facial nerve damage as well as chargers of assaulting the officers and tampering with evidence, as if to add insult to injury.

Kyle Howell
Kyle Howell

 

According to the police officers, Howell tried to eat a baggie of marijuana and kicked the officers when they attempted to retrieve the evidence. However, Mr. Howell’s traffic stop was all caught on a nearby security camera. In the video, one can see the two officers rush the driver’s seat and proceed to beat and kick him so violently that the car is shaking. Howell was released after receiving medical attention and posting $10,000 bail. Howell now plans to sue the police department, his attorney stating false arrest, excessive force, and denial of civil rights as the pretenses for his client’s lawsuit.

Another police officer(this time in Tennessee) was fired late last month after pictures of him choking a handcuffed college student until he passed out surfaced on a British newspaper. Officer Frank Phillips arrested the suspect at a party near the University of Tennessee. He can be seen choking the student until he collapses onto his knees. (Former) Officer Phillips was let go by the department and they are looking at whether to press charges against him or no.

UT Distrubance

I could continue to write about more and more and more acts of questionable police behavior/brutality/excessive force, but by now I think you get the point. I’m not here to denounce all police officers as sadistic pigs like some agnsty teenager/college student. There are good police officers as well and they, for the most part, do uphold laws and peace in our country. I write this not because I’m a cop hater, but because I want to illustrate the faults in the power structure of our police system in America. We are meant to trust these officers to “protect and serve” us, but how are we expected to do that when often times they are the very ones killing us and making us feel unsafe? It would seem as if police officers that abuse their power have an ill-conceived notion that simply having a badge automatically elevates them above the law– it does not.

We need to reform the system. There are simply too many cases of police brutality and abuse of power that have resulted in not enough change.

One thing we can do is fire all police officers. No seriously, it may just work. In 2004, the president of Georgia (the country) threatened to fire his entire country’s police force if they continued to take bribes and abuse their power. The police force apparently did not heed the president’s warning, as the entire force of over 30,000 officers were promptly fired the following days. The entire country of Georgia had no police force whatsoever for three months. Looting, murder, and chaos promptly consumed the entire country– except it didn’t. In fact, the country’s crime rate during this period of three months actually decreased despite not having a police force to enforce any laws. It became apparent to the president that the police force was actually the cause of a good amount of the crime in Georgia, extorting civilians for money.

Since the United States is several times larger and has a larger police force, this might not be the best solution to our problems, but this can be solved with technology. Some have argued that by placing cameras on officers, we can actually curb police abuse of power. Logically, it makes sense; officers (or just about anyone) would at least think twice before doing something rash/questionable if they were aware they were being caught on tape that could potentially be used against them. The Sheriff in the choking incident actually advocated for cameras, saying “This incident provides a perfect example of why we are in the process of purchasing officer-worn body cameras (video and audio recordings) so incidents like this will be fully documented.”

Civilians can already record police activity, despite claims by many police officers that this is illegal (their claims are unconstitutional). But often times, there aren’t other civilians around and even if there is, there is no guarantee that any of them are recording. We need a way of holding our police officers accountable because too often do they get away their actions with at most, a minor slap on their wrist.

Policeman: I have authority.

Civilian: Where is that authority derived?

Policeman: From the government.

Civilian: Where is government’s authority derived from?

Policeman: From its people.

Civilian: So I am the source of your authority?

Policeman: Erm, yes.

Civilian: As a public servant, you answer to me.

 

 

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