Dec 122014
Alex Symington

Alex Symington

I have friends that tell me they would like to read my essays, but won’t because they’re in an on-line publication and my friends are more comfortable with hard-copy-old-school newspaper. They like the feel and the rustle of real paper. I guess Kindle is out of the question, as well. I say to them, so sorry, but one great advantage that on-line publications have over hard copy is the addition of audio and video that can enhance and expand on that textual copy.

As we’ve seen (we that read on-line) video has been used in The Blue Paper, among other things, to illustrate abusive police behavior in Key West and NYC. Many communities are demanding that police wear body cameras to record interactions with the citizens they are charged with to protect. In some instances video could actually help excuse police behavior in question (see paragraph six). The Guardian reports that in the city of Rialto CA, “after [body] cameras were introduced in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months. Officers’ use of force fell by 60%.”

However, in the case of grand jury investigations into deaths in police custody, satirist Andy Borowitz had this to report, “On the heels of an initiative to provide police departments with body cameras, there is growing support for a plan to supply grand-jury members with eyes…” What Andy says is funny, but like all good satire, at the same time true.

Last Friday, December fifth, my wife was listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR and Diane and the panel were discussing the video of Eric Garner being suffocated at the hands of the NYPD. My wife suggested I listen because a caller introduced a new wrinkle in the interpretation of Mr. Garner’s take down. The link to the show is below if you want to listen to it (thank you technology). At 39:00 minutes into the show the caller that identified himself as Frank, an ex-army ranger with training in choke holds explained that there are two types of choke hold. One is the “blood choke” that constricts the blood flow. The person being choked can still talk but will eventually lose consciousness.

The other choke hold is the “air choke” and the person may be able to make noises, but is unable to speak. In Frank’s educated opinion the officer accused of killing Mr. Garner was employing a blood choke hold and not the reason for the death that was more likely caused by the four or five large policemen kneeling on Mr. Garner’s back. Every time he said, “I can’t breathe” his lungs compressed more and after eleven times all his air was gone and he was incapable of taking any air back in.

Frank’s take throws a monkey wrench into the machine, but his conclusion was that Officer Pantaleo, the officer employing the non-fatal “blood choke hold” was the only innocent cop and all the others are the real reason Mr. Garner died. However, what was also pointed out by one of the panelists on the show was those other officers were granted immunity to testify in the case. Justice denied, again. In either case, Mr. Garner died needlessly.

In spite of what the deniers and apologists may say race is still a significant factor in police perception of potential and/or actual suspects. This is graphically illustrated time and time again by numerous black and brown American deaths at the hands of civilian police, and conversely white suspects getting free passes. Miami Herald columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., recently juxtaposed two stories of police reaction to gun toting suspects.

The first story is about a 63 year old white man holding a rifle pointed in the air, standing on a street in Kalamazoo. When the police arrived they are greeted with disrespect, cursing and multiple middle finger salutes. These officers kept their cool and acted responsibly and took the time to talk the man down. He was not arrested and even got his gun back the next day!

The contrasting story Mr. Pitts presents us with is of a twelve year old black child, Tamir Rice playing in a Cleveland park with a realistic looking toy gun. When the police arrived an officer jumped out of the car and shot the child point blank within a matter of seconds. No analysis of the situation, no talking this “dangerous” gun wielding criminal down, no talk what-so-ever, just shooting.

Mr. Pitts summed up the two different stories of police work this way. “…anyone looking to define white privilege would be well advised to ponder the 40 minutes police spent sorting things out with the white man and the two seconds it took them to shoot the black boy.”

Does the reader remember the “white hero” Cliven Bundy and his beef (sorry) with the federal government? As I recall, at one point he had several of his well armed “patriot” supporter’s rifles trained on federal law enforcement officers and not a single arrest was made, never mind guns fired. Does anyone think for a single minute that would have been the case if the New Black Panthers had their weapons aimed at the federales?

The double standard of differing police treatment for black and white Americans is epidemic and a self-fulfilling social construct. I’m mad as hell and I’m paper white. I can not begin to understand or feel the depth of anger and betrayal that black Americans are experiencing…my fellow Americans. Where is the U.S. Attorney General and federal leadership to combat this nation wide collective insanity of cops killing Americans? The people’s hand is being forced. Civil disobedience is our only option left and coincidentally all those militarized civilian police and corporate prisons are warmed up and waiting. God bless America.


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 December 12, 2014  Posted by at 12:55 am Alex Symington, Issue #92  Add comments

  2 Responses to “Perception”

  1. Alex, I too prefer a real book, a real ,piece of paper, but I put up with this online stuff if it means reading stuff like yours. You touch upon 2 things in this article that really get up my craw. 1) The death of the young boy in Cleveland is perhaps the worst example of police idiocy of all the news items that have recently surfaced. And yet, many times it is not mentioned in the pantheon of Brown, Garner, etc. on TV. 2) The Clive Bundy affair is simply a disgrace, not just for the lawless quality of the Bundy faction, but maybe even more so for the lack of action taken against them by Obama justice. Gutless, shameful, and worse.

  2. Thanks Jerome,
    Just trying to point out the cognitive disconnections and denials of our reality that leave me stupefied….
    We are surrounded by incompetence and things aren’t improving. 🙂

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