Thursday, March 5, 2015

Police State Within a Police State

(*Updated below)
Ferguson, MO officials were so totally rattled by the Justice Department's scathing screed that right after giving a press conference promising to curb their racist enthusiasm, the police promptly arrested a few people who had the gall to be standing around on a public street, listening to them talk.

Why Attorney General Eric Holder and his minions didn't throw the book at this corrupt town without pity instead of issuing a strongly worded warning to them is anybody's guess. But I suppose it would be too hard for Eric Holder to immediately sue* to disband a small town police department that seems to have gotten its training in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. It would have been too hard for Eric Holder, who wracked his brain to successfully figure out an extra-legal rationale for extrajudicial assassinations-by-president, to figure out a way to criminally indict elected officials for gross dereliction of duty, fraud, theft, assault, and violations of probably every penal code devised by a state or federal legislature.

Punishing the Ferguson power structure turns out to be just as hard as punishing the Wall Street banking cartel and the torturers of the CIA. Because each in its own way functions to turn the wheels of neoliberal capitalism. Ferguson is just one tiny wheel within the larger corporate wheel that grinds regular people to dust as it churns along. And the greasing of the wheel of neoliberal capitalism is the whole raison d'etre of the American government.

The best that the Obama administration can do in a police state which it enables, controls, militarizes and funds is to perform periodic whitewashes when situations become fraught and the rabble rouses itself, as it did in the wake of Michael Brown's death and emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Plus, Barack Obama needs some timely public relations cover for when he travels to Selma this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the march for voting rights.

From the New York Times:
The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.
The report gave credence to many of the grievances aired last year by African-Americans in angry, sometimes violent protests after the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Though the Justice Department separately concluded that the officer, Darren Wilson, who is white, violated no federal laws in that shooting, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said investigations revealed the root of the rage that brought people into the streets.
Just as the oligarchy operates in the wider world -- by plunder -- so does the Ferguson Police Department.  "Ferguson's law enforcement practices are shaped by the City's focus on revenue rather than public safety needs," reads the report, thus instantly creating distrust between the cops and their plundered and oppressed clientele.

This is what happens when austerity is dictated from on high, from the federal and state governments. This is what happens when the rich are coddled at the expense of the poor. The poor will be soaked. The only possible trickle-down is punishment.

The Department of Justice concludes that Ferguson's illegal police and court practices impose crippling hardship on victims, and that citizens are even confined to debtors' prisons for their inability to pay fines on trumped up charges. People lose their jobs and their housing. They are, in effect, being culled from the herd. They are predominantly black.

The DoJ report lists incident after incident, assault after assault. And so far, the only resignations tendered have been from town employees who wrote racist emails about the Obamas. The woman who was jailed for failing to pay for parking tickets gets no recompense. A man who lost his federal government job because he was charged with falsely telling a cop his name was "Mike" instead of Michael is not getting his position back.

Even when people dared question unconstitutional orders from police, the reply was often an arrest on a charge of resisting arrest, sometimes accompanied by a stun gun blast.  “Supervisors seem to believe that any level of resistance justifies any level of force,” investigators found.

As the Times recounts, 
Blacks in Ferguson accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests over a two-year period studied by investigators. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of those charged. A black motorist in Ferguson was twice as likely to be searched, according to the report, even though searches of whites turned up drugs and other contraband more often.
The Justice Department’s analysis found that these disparities could not be explained even when correcting for crime rates and demographics. “These disparities occur, at least in part, because Ferguson law enforcement practices are directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias,” the Justice Department concluded.
Meanwhile, the White House has come out with its own companion piece, authored by the police state apparatus itself, which concludes that this country has a police-community relations problem. All that Ferguson, and the overweening wider police state, need are more black and brown cops, better training, more public relations gimmicks like police athletic leagues, and a toning- down of the militaristic couture if not the actual military hardware. The practice of handing out surplus Pentagon equipment, like tanks and Humvees, will continue because the wheels of capitalism must continue to spin. Now that brutality and racism have been officially proven to exist, the government will kindly give the sadistic racists themselves first dibs at cleaning up their own acts.

The gist of the Obama/Holder Doctrine: "Psychopath, heal thyself".

And all you victims out there? Obama and Holder feel your pain, but it's also on you to improve relations with your oppressors. Because what it really boils down to are "perceptions" and feelings. From the introduction to the White House's Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, released this week:
In establishing the Task Force, the President spoke of the distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities -- the sense that in a country where our basic principle is equality under the law, too many young people, particularly young people of color, do not feel as though they are being treated fairly.
"When any part of the American Family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that is a problem for all of us," said the President. "It means we're not as strong as a country as we can be. And when applied to the criminal justice system, it means we're not as effective at fighting crime as we should be."
Obama effectively cancelled out the entire Ferguson report. It's not a criminal abuse problem. It's a distrust problem. There are too many disgruntled kids out there who don't "feel" like they're being treated well when they're tasered or ticketed for no good reason. The abused minority people are in the same cloyingly inclusive "American family" as the cop bullies, after all, so Papa has to convene a therapy session and urge them to just get along.

 Obama upholds the neoliberal tenet that police departments exist not to protect and serve communities, but to "fight crime." The militarism will continue, although they suggest that maybe the blatant enjoyment of the sadism should be toned down until they can find a new scapegoat, like ISIS, to command our attention. People are more apt to fall in line when they are convinced that the police state keeping them in line acts with legitimacy and professionalism rather than with the amateur-hour impunity of a Ferguson.

In a nutshell, the Obama task force is calling for a better police state through better propaganda. No rogue cops, crooked politicians or larcenous banksters will actually go to prison. Incarceration will continue to be the purview of low level drug offenders and traffic scofflaws, for the continued profit of private jailer-landlords.

Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report lists solutions that were deliberately excluded from Obama's task force report:

  • Decriminalizing drug use, homelessness, sex work and mental illness, so as to take armed and violent cops out of many of the situations in which they brutalize and murder civilians;
    Removing all financial incentives police departments now have to make low-level drug arrests and ending the use of confiscated assets by police departments;
  • Federal legislation to require police departments to report all cases of excessive force against civilians and funding for the Department of Justice to gather and maintain those statistics. Right now the only figures on police killings are assembled by private entities;
    Curbing police and prosecutorial misconduct by means including the establishment of special prosecutors to go after district attorneys and cops;
  • Granting automatic reparations in the form of monetary settlements, medical, housing and tuition assistance to the families of the falsely convicted;
  • Immediate banning of the imprisonment of juveniles with adults and the swift phasing out of juvenile prisons in favor of healing, educational and therapeutic institutions.
  • Instituting meaningful education, self-improvement and skills programs for all those confined in prisons and jails, and decent health care for all those in the nation's prisons and jails;
  • Stopping the racist profiling and roundups of immigrants and the legislation that requires it.
  • Abolition of mandatory sentences for various offenses and requirement of racial and ethnic impact studies before passage of laws creating new felony offenses;
  • Full transparency in the fines and punishments levied upon inmates in prisons and jails;
  • Subsidizing visits and phone contact between the incarcerated and their families on the outside, as family ties are one of the main determinants of successful integration of ex prisoners into society, such as it is.
And meanwhile the beatings will continue until morale improves. There will no reparations to victims -- only hope for a better tomorrow, in the far distant future.

It's up to all of us to continue taking to the streets when justice continues to be denied, and injustice continues to fester beneath the band-aids of government reports and platitudinous speeches by corrupt politicians.

* Update, 3/6: Reuters reports that Eric Holder vowed to "look into" breaking up the Ferguson P.D. if the racism doesn't miraculously get better of its own accord.
"We are prepared to use all the power that we have ... to ensure that the situation changes there," Holder told reporters.
Asked if that included dismantling the Ferguson Police Department, Holder said, "If that's what's necessary, we're prepared to do that."


Denis Neville said...

“Today we see millions of poor people and folks of color who are trapped, yet again, in a criminal justice system which are treating them like commodities, like people who are easily disposable.” – Michelle Alexander

To date, there are more than 700,000 outstanding warrants for municipal offenses in St. Louis.

The pixie-dust of post-racial America …

“In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist…The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion.” - Ta-Nehisi Coates

The DOJ’s report places responsibility on the Ferguson police department and city officials alike.

“One of the big fears I have about the DoJ’s report is that it’s going to isolate Ferguson [and] ignore the fact that this is going on in 90 other towns in our region, and in many states in America… People are literally held in these jails and extorted for monetary payments on a daily basis until they’ve tapped out their friends, their families, everything they’ve got in order to get out.” Thomas B. Harvey, Executive Director Arch City Defenders

That is the true symbol for hell. Evil conceived and ordered by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices of the bureaucracy of the police state.

Will Bunch writes, “Every American should read the Ferguson report, and remember this. It's easy to dismiss Ferguson as the bad boy, the outlier, the exception...except that it's not. To the contrary, the actions and attitudes exposed in this one Missouri town -- over-militarized robo-cops treating citizens as a colonial Other, greedy pols milking the municipal code as a cash cow, and law enforcement spitting in the face of accountability -- permeate policing in America from the Florida Keys to the Bering Strait.”

"We have this long history of racism in this country, and as it happens the criminal justice system has been perhaps the most prominent instrument for administering racism. But the racism doesn't actually come from the criminal justice system. It doesn't come from the police. The police are pretty much doing what the society that they originate from want them to do."

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others ... Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true. The hallmark of elegant racism is the acceptance of mainstream consensus, and exploitation of all its intellectual fault lines … The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt … Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.” - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Zee said...


I don't disagree that racism, and prejudice against the poor in general, is institutional among many state and municipal police departments, as well as county sheriff's departments. Nor do I disagree with any of the changes to the American justice system proposed by Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report. Indeed, I think that I have been “ahead of the curve” on at least one of his recommendations, e.g., “ decriminalizing [Indeed, fully legalizing!] drug use,” which, I believe, would have multiple social benefits.

I do, however, think that if would be foolish to “disband” the Ferguson police department, and others like it.

Fire the leadership and those documented racists amongst the rank-and-file, yes, as an object lesson to hidden offenders and as positive reinforcement for those good cops that are out there.

But if the Ferguson police department is “disbanded,” who, exactly will look after “law and order” within the town limits? Are the neighboring departments really any “better” than Ferguson's? I suspect not. They just didn't get caught first.

So as I see it, there are two alternatives to a local, “institutional” police department if Ferguson PD is “disbanded:”

You can call in the Feds, at least “temporarily,” to replace every deficient local police or sheriff's department, further entrenching the power of the federal government over each and every one of us. But are the Feds really any less racist or prejudiced—and more inclined to defend constitutionally guaranteed freedoms—than the locals that they're replacing? Somehow, I just don't think so. Indeed, evidence seems to be to the contrary if we look at the Holder DOJ.

And will Federal control really, “eventually” defer to a locally reconstructed state/police/sheriff's department? Again, somehow, I just don't think so. Once the Feds assume local control, IMHO, we'll likely never be rid of them. So, welcome to an even more extensive/intensive police state.

Alternatively, perhaps you're prepared to try “bottom-up” democracy by which communities somehow police themselves sans a formal structure, assuming that human beings are fundamentally “good,” and “fair” towards one another. Well, you're welcome to give it a try. I'll be curious to see how the myriad local “town halls” decide what the local laws are and exactly who will enforce them. And, how.

Here comes the tyranny of the ignorant majority!

I suspect that simply out of necessity we will rapidly devolve to the existing legal codes and quickly be giving out guns and badges to a new generation of markedly untrained cops, all of whom will have their own set of prejudices and, perhaps, rather curious interpretations of the law. I have seen even trained Albuquerque police officers who are remarkably ignorant of local law and the Bill of Rights. How will a newly-armed and scantily-trained John-Q-deputy/officer interpret your Fourth Amendment protection against illegal searches and seizures at a minor traffic stop?

Good luck.

Karen Garcia said...


A better term for what to do with the Ferguson P.D. and court system would be to break them up, purge them of the rot from the top on down. Leaving the top officials in place to reform themselves would be tantamount to letting Jamie Dimon reform JP Morgan Chase while he still maintains his watchdog seat at the Fed. Oh, wait. OK, it would be like letting John Brennan stay in charge of the CIA after he admitted breaking into Senate computers in an effort to cover up torture. Oh, wait, again.

As long as you let the criminals reform themselves, the corruption will continue and grow. Ferguson is just a microcosm of the all-pervasive culture of corruption in this country as a whole. The only difference is that the small town corruption was investigated by DoJ before they slapped some wrists and essentially washed their hands of the whole slimy mess. At this point, Obama and Holder are worried about their places in history, so the scathe is more intense than usual.

Denis Neville said...

It would be foolish to “disband” the Ferguson police department and others like it?

“The residents of Ferguson do not have a police problem. They have a gang problem. That the gang operates under legal sanction makes no difference. It is a gang nonetheless, and there is no other word to describe an armed band of collection agents.”

“Crediting the accounts of Ferguson's officers is a good way to enroll yourself in your own plunder and destruction.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes John Locke:

“The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders. What is my remedy against a robber, that so broke into my house?”

Coates asks, “What are the tools in Ferguson to address the robber that so regularly breaks into my house?”

“Darren Wilson was innocent. If only the city's cops offered their own citizens the same due process he received.” - Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Gangsters of Ferguson,”

Zee said...


So, again, I have to ask: Who will "police" Ferguson if the entire existing police department is completely disbanded?

The FBI? The U.S. Marshalls Service?

Some self-appointed citizens' vigilance committee?

Or, once the "gangster" police department is disbanded, will the citizens of the city, left to themselves, suddenly prove to be so angelic that no policing will ever be necessary again?

Karen Garcia said...


You probably missed the update I just posted on Holder announcing that the DoJ will disband the local force if that's what it takes. It isn't the same thing as calling in the National Guard. What could happen is that all the various little towns around St. Louis might fall under the purview of the same county police department. Or an outside police commissioner might be brought in to clean things up, which would also involve transfers of other brass, as well as the hiring of new recruits fresh from the police academy. That's the way it's been done elsewhere in the country.

Frankly, I found your insinuation that the citizens of Ferguson are incipient criminals who will run amok without an occupying police force to quite offensive.

Zee said...


I believe that I said in my first comment on this thread that rather than disbanding the Ferguson PD, one might:

Fire the leadership and those documented racists amongst the rank-and-file, yes, as an object lesson to hidden offenders and as positive reinforcement for those good cops that are out there.” (My bold emphasis.)

I really don't think that's all that much different than your somewhat belated suggestion that “an outside police commissioner might be brought in to clean things up, which would also involve transfers of other brass, as well as the hiring of new recruits fresh from the police academy. That's the way it's been done elsewhere in the country.”

Obviously, if the Ferguson PD leadership were fired outright (rather than “transferred”) as I suggested, someone new at the top such as your “police commissioner” would have to be brought in from elsewhere. And if the rank-and-file racists were fired as I suggested, again, obviously, new police officers from somewhere else would have to be brought in. Whether from “new recruits fresh from the police academy,” as you suggest, or from other outside agencies sans a record of racism seems to me to be immaterial. I apologize for not fully explaining this “flip side” of my suggestion to all concerned, but, again, it seemed, well...just so obvious.

(Though I might have to wonder—if the local/regional police system is as totally corrupt as you and Denis suggest—why recruits from any nearby police academy wouldn't already be just as infected with racism as those at Ferguson PD? After all, who “taught” those cops currently at the Ferguson PD? Probably the same ones as would be teaching your “new recruits,” who were also drawn from the same “recruit pool” anyway. Seems to me that the “police academy” would require a full housecleaning, too. So, on and on the “disbanding” must go. )

In the end though, your talk of “disbanding” the Ferguson PD sounds rather more limited than the dramatic use of the word “disbanding” would imply to most people, and not all that different from what I have more realistically proposed: Get rid of the “chaff,” try to keep or rehabilitate the “wheat,” and “replace” people where you must.

So perhaps what we have here is simply a failure to communicate?

It certainly was not my intention to imply that “the citizens of Ferguson are incipient criminals who will run amok without an occupying police force.” If that's what my words suggested, well, I apologize. It is not what I intended to say.

What I meant to say/ask is: “If Ferguson PD is “disbanded” ( your “loaded” word, and, now, Eric Holder's), what does that mean for the law-abiding citizens of Ferguson, MO who just might have to dial “911” at 2:00 AM as their back door is being kicked in?”

Who picks up that 'phone at the other end if Ferguson PD has been “disbanded?” Some sleepy guy in Washington DC at the DOJ who suggests that they call back in the morning? An equally sleepy FBI agent or U.S. Marshall unhappily assigned locallyto Ferguson who may or may not have anyone to dispatch to answer the call anyway? Or some racist cop at your “county police department” who doesn't really give a fat flying f*** what happens in Ferguson anyway, because he's just like his “disbanded” police “brethren” in Ferguson?

Or, perhaps, are you just hoping against hope that no one in Ferguson will ever have to dial “911” again once the gangster Ferguson PD has been “disbanded,” and need an urgent answer to that question?

“Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” —H. L. Mencken (My bold emphasis.)

“Disbanding” Ferguson PD is an easy-sounding, simplistic answer that is “neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Meredith NYC said...

I agree Karen. If there’s no firing, breaking up and then reconstituting, then we’ll have to wait for more killings, street protests etc, to be flooding the news.

They should fire all cops with any record of abuse, or who won’t adhere to new rules, plus jail guards too, like at Rikers.

Then bring in temp national guard troops, under strict command until they can rehire suitable candidates. Like Ike brought in the troops to force Little Rock School integration. This is even more a life/death matter.

Use valid testing to weed out cops/supvs with obvious race bias and symptoms of authoritarianism and superiority. The new hires will know what’s needed and if they fit the bill.

I think Obama/Holder do care about this, not only their place in history. But they’re up against entrenched forces wanting to keep the status quo of power/authority as it is, as the highest priority---whether of cops or bankers.

What’s the unconscious cause of all of this? Coates talks about automatic reactions of average people. Let’s remember that our races are instantly distinguishable from 100 yards away. So the ease of picking out 1 group is what makes psbl our biased injustice system, even as we pretend the Bill of Rights.
With the 2 basic color scheme of our society, dark or light, we easily make up separate residential n. hoods, even after our long standing laws for c.rights and affirm action in housing and jobs.

Thus the cops can easily drive over to where the darkies live and start their unopposed ticketing, searching, harassing, arresting---far from the eyes of whites who never witness this.
Thus what would the ‘crime rate’ be, say with drugs or weapons, if cops stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, sentenced whites at the same rate?

This is what makes police bias so normalized, then all the excuses have to be used to justify it, reinforcing prejudice. if we all lived in integrated n.hoods, and cops picked out the blacks to be stopped, in front of their white neighbors, it would be so obvious and offensive, it would inhibit the cops from going too far.

But since it's done far from the eyes of white n. hoods, it balloons out of control. They can strive to meet the Bloomberg/Kelly type quotas. And once that’s acceptable, so are racist jokes about Obama on official email.

The system feeds not only the town budgets starved for funds by gop induced low wealth taxes, but it feeds the egos of the white cops, already conditioned by negative stereotypes. And maybe, sadly even some black cops who take on some of the negative attitudes of their white supervisors and co workers.
Must be hard to be a black cop, or even a good white cop. That is a whole other fascinating topic I’ve seen little info on. Why? Taboo?

In decades in NYC, Queens and Manhattan, I never witnessed even 1 stop and frisk. So I was shocked to see the news of about 700,000 a year, most finding no crime. That tells it.

After these hidden facts were finally revealed to us Whities, I was motivated to join the 2013 Silent March Against S/F down 5th Ave from 110th to 72 St. Many thousands of ALL races came out and various public officials also. I think this was before the court ruling against s/f.

And this December’s huge Manhattan march from the Village up to Herald Square re Garner, etc, was about 25,000 or more, with more whites than minorities, as I observed in the crowd.

In their hearts, Bloomberg/Kelly thought they were righ--they appealed the court ruling. Kelly sincerely said he wanted to “put fear into the young minority men when they leave their homes daily.”
Broken Windows-- applied to black n. hoods, but never to big bank crooks as their smaller crimes ballooned to larger ones, until it took down the economy.

Zee said...

And lest anyone think that I am over-interpreting the meanings of "disband" or "dismantle," here's what my Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has to say about the meaning of those words:

disband: to break up the organization of: DISSOLVE

dismantle: to take to pieces; also: to destroy the integrity or functioning of.

There is nothing "half-way" about what these words mean as applied to an organization.

Jay–Ottawa said...

The art of disruption isn’t hard to master.*

It does not require great intelligence. A few simple tricks will do. For example, focus on one term or phrase and make that the issue (underlined and bolded) today and into tomorrow, if possible. Keep that up at length until the next post then look for a new jot or tittle to trip over. That way one can keep the audience from seeing the forest for that great big twig over there. Keep up the diversions––within reason, of course.

—Even losing you (the earnest voice, the blockheadedness I love) I shan’t have lied.
Such a loss would not be a disaster
And not so hard to master.

(*Apologies to Elizabeth Bishop)

Zee said...


And this time I thought that I was actually more-or-less on topic.


I'm oh-so-very sorry that I have "disrupted" your reverie on Karen's writings, which, evidently, means seeing only comments that conform to those that you expect to see!

Sincerely yours,

The Blockhead

PS: Interesting that you should mock me by paraphrasing Elizabeth Bishop, who, though a renowned poet, was also a child of privilege. In short, she was a rentier whose unearned income allowed her the time to be so expressive:

"Bishop had an independent income in early adulthood, as a result of an inheritance from her deceased father, that did not run out until the end of her life. Bishop was able to travel widely without worrying about employment and lived in many cities and countries which are described in her poems" --Wikipedia

Would that I had been so lucky, instead of having to work for a living.

Rather than hiding behind coddled poets, why don't you give your clever, backhanded efforts to mock me a rest, and just come out and say what's on your mind, Onkel Dankbar?

Karen Garcia said...


Thanks for your detailed and excellent response. I was somewhat heartened that Holder belatedly (in response to some actual tough journalistic questioning)outlined what he might actually DO in the wake of his department's scathing report. From the unashamed reaction of the Ferguson officials to the DoJ report, it is fairly obvious that these people are incapable of cleaning up their own act.

(And this is also in response to Zee) I was a reporter in Newburgh, NY in the 70s during its own widespread police scandal, which resulted in the chief and about 15 other cops (at least half of the force) being convicted on corruption charges resulting in long prison sentences. An outside police commissioner, I believe from the midwest, was brought in and the entire hierarchal structure was changed. There was an assistant community relations commissioner position formed, satellite offices, more black cops hired, police ride-alongs for citizens, local black clergy having more input, etc. In addition the municipal judge was brought up on charges and removed from the bench. This didn't solve all the problems stemming from endemic racism and poverty, but it got rid of the blatant corruption... also made it easier to weed out the ensuing bad apples and dishonest elected officials, one by one. In other words, it changed the tone. The draconian Rockefeller drug laws in effect at the time didn't help, though. At one point the racism was so bad in Newburgh that the city manager forced welfare moms to come to the police station to pick up their checks.

Not all police departments are the same. New York State police, for example, are for the most part highly professional, and selective in who they hire. I know for a fact that civil rights are emphasized in that academy; so no surprise that the state police were singled out and remarked upon for their respectful treatment of Occupiers in Albany. Potential recruits are vetted thoroughly over a period of many weeks, through written exams, oral interviews, multiple polygraphs and psych exams, interviews with teachers, past employers, neighbors, etc. The academy itself is among the most rigorous in the country. They give precedence to college grads and they pay well. I would use this as a model for Ferguson and for all police departments. Of course, right wingers and states and municipalities afflicted with austerity don't want to spend money on very expensive training and higher salaries and rigorous standards. Ferguson is just a microcosm of the throwaway society, as both Henry Giroux and Pope Francis call it. Extreme wealth inequality makes for a very sick American culture. The rich have their gated communities and private security details to protect them. The ruling class unfortunately view local police as buffers between "us" and "them."

Karen Garcia said...


Use of this comments section for trolling, hijacking the conversation for the airing of personal grievances, nitpicking over semantics that goes on and on and on, ad infinitum, will not be tolerated.

Karen Garcia said...


Thanks for pointing us to Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of the best columnists working today. I think he is too radical for the New York Times, where he filled in for vacationers for a time. I will never forget his column chastising Obama for expressing admiration for Ray "Stop & Frisk" Kelly and saying he was considering him for director of Homeland Security. Coates is a frequent critic, too, of the "black respectability politics" as espoused by Al Sharpton. His essay on reparations for the descendants of enslaved people is a classic.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Heavens to Betsie! Holder’s been quoted as resorting to the “D” word. For sure, that means anarchy in Ferguson.

Just read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations.” Powerful. Here’s the link:

After reading it, one might come to the view that the Ferguson System will not be resolved by tepid, there-there, slow-go solutions. So, you go, Holder.

As for reparations, which are the subject of Coates’s essay, the money is “there” to restore what has been systemmaticallly stolen from blacks for 250 years and counting. For starters, we will find much of it funding the Pentagon’s junk and stuffed in the wallets of Wall Street.

Zee said...


Thank you for a more detailed account of how you might hope to see the Ferguson PD reformed.

This makes sense to me, and, in fact, doesn't look all that different in some respects with the settlement the Albuquerque Police Department reached with the DoJ after years of investigation of charges of repeated, undue/unnecessary use of force.

You can find the two-page summary here:

One thing in particular stood out when comparing your recommendations with the agreement reached between The City of Albuquerque and the DoJ:

“The city [Albuquerque] and APD agree to develop a strategic recruitment plan; that candidates for sworn personnel positions, including lateral hires, undergo psychological, medical, and polygraph examinations; maintain a drug testing program; and conduct pre-employment investigations of lateral hires, including their history of using force.” (My bold emphasis.)

It has been observed that the expense of meeting the terms specified in the agreement will cost Albuquerque taxpayers “millions,” but I have no objection to being taxed more in order to have quality, highly-trained law enforcement officers who are respectful of my civil rights:

And who knows? The money we save in paying off in-court and out-of-court settlements for APD's prior brutality episodes may go a significant distance in paying off the future costs of the settlement.

Meredith NYC said...’s very informative to read your examples you cite above, re ‘70s Newburgh police chief and 15 cops actually going to prison for corruption. This shows justice is not impossible.

Plus the positive example of NY State Police, professional, vetted, tested, even with their backgrounds checked---wow, that is really a revelation, and should be publicized as a model.

These facts could be used for an interesting Times comment on this whole topic, and would get some good replies. It's factual contrast needed to round out the picture we get, but columnists aren’t doing it. Thanks.

Re testing, and recruiting----here's an actual study:

A professor who did a study on testing of police or guard recruits wrote an informative comment to article, “U.S. Finds Excessive Force Against Youths at Rikers,” front page, Aug. 5. I suggested he send it as letter to editor, since it offered some rare DATA! He sent it and they published it.

Here’s his experiment---dig those personality traits he tested for—Machiavellianism. Could be guards or police---but that doesn't mean all or even the majority of cops are high in these traits. Food for thought.

Sam McFarland Bowling Green, KY 17 hours ago

Are prison guards more prone toward aggression than are others? In part to test this idea, Thomas Carnahan and I placed ads in several university newspapers. Some ads sought participants to be paid for “a psychological study of prison life” while others sought participants for “a psychological study.” The first ad almost exactly replicated the ad in the famous Zimbardo Prison Simulation Study. The only difference between the ads consisted of the words, “of prison life.”

Those who signed up after seeing the “of prison life” ad were higher on five traits that predict aggression (dispositional aggressiveness, authoritarianism, social dominance, Machiavellianism, and narcissism) than those who volunteered after seeing the latter ad, and they were lower in empathy and altruism, two traits inversely related to aggression.

We do not doubt that sometimes bad situations make good people, including prison guards, do terrible things. Nevertheless, most of us, including prison guards, are drawn to situations that we believe will fit our personalities.

This study may be found in the May 2007 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Denis Neville said...

“It would take me a long time to understand how systems inflict pain and hardship in people's lives and to learn that being kind in an unjust system is not enough.” - Helen Prejean

Mark Ames writes that the “blueprint for Ferguson’s “offender-funded” criminal justice system was first proposed by one of the men most responsible for creating the modern libertarian movement and taking it to local granular municipal politics: Reason magazine’s Robert Poole,” who “set up (with Koch money) the Reason Foundation: The first American organization dedicated solely to privatizing local government.”

“Under Poole’s editorship in the early 80s, Reason magazine published a big feature article headlined “The St. Louis Solution” calling for privatizing city streets, sidewalks and services, just as some of St. Louis’ richest and most segregated townships have done since the post-Civil War era.

Some 35 years later, it’s remarkable to consider the state of Ferguson today and how closely it resembles Robert Poole’s libertarian blueprint in 1979.”

In his interview with Missouri’s leading libertarian think-tank, the Show-Me Institute, Ferguson’s mayor Knowles boasts of a variety of privatized services … ideas first proposed by Poole…

Listening to Mayor Knowles explaining … how privatization is the key to Ferguson’s success, one thing stands out: Knowles does not come across as some kind of unhinged anarcho-capitalist. The once-extreme ideas, first laid out in the late 70s by Robert Poole and his supporters … have coursed their way through the system so thoroughly over the decades since—absorbed by both major parties, by liberals and by conservatives—that they’re now essentially motor functions in mainstream American politics.”

“They put your mind right in a bag, and take it wherever they want.” — Malcolm X

"It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it's more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody's blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, the capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It's only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely." - Malcolm X

Karen Garcia said...


Thanks for referring us to that Pando article on the privatization scourge and its malevolent historical sources. Now we find out that the Ferguson mayor is steeped in John Bircherism. It's his religion, and he's not going to change his beliefs at this late date, justice report or no justice report.

If you haven't already read them, I also highly recommend Rick Perlstein's trilogy on the roots of American libertarianism, beginning with the Goldwater era. He devotes a whole section of his first volume to my old stomping ground of Newburgh, another impoverished ghetto which was considered a shining example of neoliberalism by right wingers. Perlstein also just wrote a scathing article on Mayor One Percent (Rahm Emanuel) and his own brand of Democratic libertarianism. (See it in "In These Times" on my blogroll.) I am hopeful, now that the destruction effects of free market capitalism are out there, for all to see, that more people will revolt. Knowledge is power.

Meredith, I mentioned "the Newburgh 16" cops in a Brooks comment I made several months ago and probably will again, if a Times article or op-ed presents itself at a decent hour. Now that we have DST, however, my contributions will probably dwindle even further since I am not normally an insomniac. But I hear from the comments editor that they're thinking of giving us unpaid back-benchers an bigger, better platform in the near future. I am holding my breath!

Meredith NYC said...

Karen....a bigger comments platform? What comments editor? How did you hear about it?
I only hope they change 3 or 4am posting time, which is abusive.
I don't think they ever notified readers of the time change.
And I still don't know why krugman's blog comments mysteriously disappeared for 2 weeks than returned.

Karen Garcia said...


I also notice that comments mysteriously appear and disappear from various Times articles on a regular basis.

Margaret Sullivan addressed reader comments in a recent blog-post, which included some q&a from Bassey Etim, the comments editor:

In a separate mass email to a group of regular commenters with whom I correspond, he added that they're looking into publishing "guest pieces" by readers for the website, that wouldn't even have to be linked to an op-ed or article. They see our comments as "content" that they want to expand... I assume along the lines of the Huffington Post bloggers.

This is no big insider secret. It was already publicly announced last year in the Times itself:

Judging from the date of that article, they are looking at this reader-generated content bonanza (for them) being fully operational sometime next year. I notice that this is a freebie for them, funded by a grant from the Knight family of newspaper chains.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, thanks, I went to the public editor blog from Feb. One comment mentioned time zones.
So if we get the op ed page 3am and the west coast 12 a.m. how is that better than 10pm here and 7pm there? That can’t be the reason for the change. No clue from that blog, tho.
If you find out more about this from other commenters, plz post.

To me, we need comment moderators, so they should hire more, and NOT expand comments to more articles. Comments are equal to another section of the paper, as it is, in terms of time to write them and read some. I don’t have time to read the paper, plus columns, and comments, and watch TV and read books, and live my life.

I now read much less of the whole paper, and more op ed, and then comments. I know I miss good things as a result.
Right now my desk is piled with little notes of things to read –when I get time--i will follow up, sort them, or trash them. I have many windows on computer with stuff waiting to be read, and making my computer slow. What is the answer to this???

Karen Garcia said...


Did you see this?

Who knew that somebody had actually conducted a scientific study of NYT women commenters? Not me. Now I suspect that the real reason they switched the op-ed posting times to 3:30 a.m. is that, as another study shows, commenters can change readers' minds about an article or op-ed, and that women commenters, on average, get more reader recommendations than men. On the down side, though, most of the female comments are on family-oriented, womens page-type stories. As I responded to the author, this is enough to make me start commenting again, given that women only constitute 25% of NYT comments! And on Krugman columns, I've observed that relatively few of his commenters are female. There's you, me, Rima, and only a handful of other women who dare to regularly write on economic issues. I still don't get, though, how the author of the study discerned the sex of the many pseudonymous commenters. Apparently, there are hidden clues in how men and women write.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, that is an interesting Kristof blog. Why would women get more recommends than men? But there are some very good women commenters.

And seems Krugman’s blog comments are mostly men. His last op ed column was mostly for economists, I thought, not for general readers, unless they just love interest rate tech talk.

In fact, re economics, commenter Nancy happened to post some very specific economic data in Brooks’, March 6, The Temptation of Hillary—you probably saw it. It stood out for me.

She had 2 comments, close to the top---she’s a trusted one! The 1st one had stats showing the decline in median income levels over decades, and her other showed the increase over decades of the portion of our wealth held by the .1 % richest. From the census, and from economist E. Saez.

Now that was specific, informative retort to Brooks’ nonsense, and just what the columnists should be debating, as to cause/effect. Brooks would never take this on.

But what is truly outdated sexism is the Times still has 2 woman and 10 men as regular op ed page columnists---in 2015. And most of the contributors also are men. I wonder if the 2 women get more women commenters than the men?

Let’s face it....Dowd and Collins are both different from the all the men---both smart as a whip, as they say, but-- we get celebrity/political gossip, gotcha, put down snark. That’s their range. Power moves stimulate them to ever wiser wise cracks. No interest in what the issues mean, or tracing cause/effect behind the smokescreen. Thus they add nothing to our understanding. What kind of role models are these, if the women columnists are limited to one type?

There’s a place for their stuff---but why is it only the women, not the men? Can’t Rosenthal find a male political put down artist to entertain readers?

It must be said that the men on the page are all more serious, with wider ranging interests and knowledge. Even if they’re views are wrong—they delve, they think.

Of course there’s S. Court Linda Greenhouse, but occasionally, and on 1 subject, and I find her complicated to read. There are other serious, informative women writers in the paper. But only these 2 on the op ed page, but they're really women’s section or style types, or for People Mag. So A. Rosenthal must be sexist himself, no way out of it.

There’s plenty of women that could give a wider array of opinion writing. I think the S. Post has more women. So maybe the lack has something to do with the perceived ‘prestige’ of the Times op ed page, thus still male real estate? Or something. Can’t figure it.

Meredith NYC said...

In my post I typed S. Post instead of the W. Post, having more op ed women than the Times.