Police Brutality: The Pattern Continues


By. S. Brian Willson (July 13, 2016)

As a criminologist I find it instructive to place police brutality in its historical perspective (it is not an aberration). For example:

(1) The 1968 “Walker Report: Rights in Conflict” examined the civil disturbances (“rioting” at the DNC in Chicago, Aug, 22-29). It took more than 20,000 pages of statements from 3,437 eyewitnesses and participants, looked at 180 hours of film, and over 12,000 still photographs. The report essentially concluded that disorders resulted primarily from refusal of authorities to grant permits and from the subsequent systematic brutal and indiscriminate attacks by Chicago police on demonstrators, most of whom were peaceful. So, in effect, we witnessed government brutal violence against US Americans at home protesting an illegal war abroad, while that same, the government was committing brutal violence against Vietnamese in their homeland who were protesting the illegal war waged against them. It was the police, in effect, who had rioted against the people. The Walker report cited “ferocious, malicious and mindless violence” and “gratuitous beating” by the police.

Many years later it was discovered that “almost one in every six demonstrators was an undercover agent”  (see Myra MacPherson. “All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone” (New York: Scribner, 2006), 421)

(2) The 1931 (Hoover) Wickersham Commission’s Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement concluded that the “third degree,”– the willful infliction of pain and suffering on criminal suspects–was “widespread.” The commission discovered that “official lawlessness” by police, jailers, judges, magistrates, and others in the criminal justice system was widespread in many jurisdictions, including major cities. It investigated illegal arrests, bribery, entrapment, coercion of witnesses, fabrication of evidence, “third degree” practices, police brutality, and illegal wiretapping. It defined “The third degree” as employment of methods which inflict suffering, physical or mental, upon a person, in order to obtain from that person information about a “crime”, saying it was “widespread” and “secret.” It called the practice (torture) “shocking in its character and extent, violative of American traditions and institutions.” It catalogued some of the “third degree methods”: physical brutality, threats, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme cold or heat–also known as ‘the sweat box’–and blinding with powerful lights and other forms of sensory overload or deprivation.”

This behavior IS very much part of the (US) American tradition and institutions. We need to unravel from the entire mythology about the US founding and its continuing “exceptionalism.” Exceptionally diabolical, perhaps.

We need to develop nonviolent revolutionary strategies of noncooperation, withdrawing support from dependency upon the system while radically downsizing into cooperative, locally food sufficient communities.

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