Bad lieutenants

Harvey Keitel’s turn as a psychopathic cop seems less far-fetched today than it did in 1992.

The great American melting pot is at a rolling boil. Thousands of protesters blocking traffic and staging “die-ins” in response to a spate of white-on-black killings committed by police officers in New York (Staten Island, Eric Garner, 7.17.14), Missouri (Ferguson, Michael Brown, 8.9.14), Ohio (Cleveland, Tamir Rice, 11.22.14), and Arizona (Phoenix, Rumain Brisbon, 12.2.14).

I hope their efforts amount to something more than Occupy Wall Street did. I hope, too, that our national discussion widens to include the whole gamut of government-sanctioned aggression in all its forms against people of all races, and here’s why …

When I watch the dashcam footage of Officer Sean Groubert repeatedly shooting unarmed Levar Jones (Columbia, SC, 9.4.14), when I hear Jones plead “What did I do, sir?!” or hear Eric Garner cry out “I can’t breathe!” as Officer Daniel Pantaleo suffocates him, I don’t see racists persecuting people of color. I see a militarized civilian “law enforcement” population off the leash and running. Amok.  I see a society in the throes of an auto-immune response of epic proportions, our boys in blue being the antibodies and the rest of us being being presumptive infections.

We’re proud of ourselves here in the Palmetto State for getting Groubert off the force and behind bars in relatively short order … though perhaps not for delaying for as long as legally possible (270 days) a jury decision. We’re proud of ourselves for indicting former Eutawville police officer Richard Combs for the murder of Bernard Bailey, who was unarmed … though perhaps not for having waited three and a half years after Bailey’s death to do so. We’re proud of ourselves for having indicted former North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven this summer in the shooting death of 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite, who was unarmed … though perhaps not for the charge itself: misconduct while in office.

So good on us, I suppose. Sort of.

But I’m not impressed.