“We never will look at police officers and rescue personnel the same way … Such men and women help define the word ‘hero’ in America.”
So said America’s national newspaper, USA Today, in the aftermath of the events of September 11.
Now maybe I’m all alone here, but I’m still looking at police officers in much the same way that I was before. Which is to say that, somehow, I’m having a real hard time viewing the troops of the New York City Police Department as heroes.
This is, after all, the very same NYPD that was, prior to September 11, best known for employing anal rape with a toilet plunger as an interrogation technique, and for sending out a civilian-clad goon squad to pump nineteen rounds into a man for the crime of standing on his own front porch, preparing to enter his home.
But now, as evidenced by the fact that the convictions of three of the officers convicted of complicity in the torture of Abner Louima were just overturned by an appellate court, all such incidents are to be forgiven. And not just in New York. No, the reflected glow of the supposed heroics of New York’s finest have washed away the sins of all the nation’s police forces.
Take, for example, the scandal-plagued LAPD – perhaps the most openly fascistic big city police department in the country. On October 23, 2001, just six weeks after the fall of the WTC towers, the venerable Los Angeles Times reported, in a brief story buried in the ‘B’ section of the paper, that the shooting of actor Anthony Dwain Lee by officer Tarriel Hopper was “in policy” and that no disciplinary action would be taken.
For those who may have missed the story of Lee’s death, he was gunned down while attending a party on Halloween night of 2000. Officer Hopper, called to the house to investigate a disturbance, illegally entered the property and spied Lee through a closed window standing in a well-lit room within the house and proceeded to, for no apparent reason and without warning, summarily execute him.
That, at any rate, is the only way that I can think of to describe what happened.
The officer claimed, rather disingenuously, that the shooting was in self-defense. Lee reportedly was in possession of a replica gun, which the officer claimed was pointed in his direction. The facts of the case though indicate that Lee was not even aware of the presence of the officer, who was standing in darkness and would not have been visible to those inside the house. There is no indication that any of the revelers were aware of Hopper’s presence until bullets suddenly began blasting through the window. Lee was hit four times – in the back.
Lee’s gun was a non-working replica – a part of his Halloween costume. There is nothing to indicate that he was acting in anything approaching a threatening manner. He was in fact standing amid a crowd of fellow partiers, none of whom reported feeling that Lee was posing a threat to any of them, or to the unseen officer.
None of that though matters now. We are trying, it must be remembered, to fight a war on terrorism here. We certainly can’t tie the hands of our law enforcement officers by preventing them from summarily executing the occasional domestic ‘evildoer,’ or from planting evidence and framing innocent ‘suspects,’ as the LAPD’s CRASH unit was fond of doing.
All of that is also now forgiven and forgotten. Just two weeks after the Times reported that the killing of Lee was a “good” shooting, it reported that the city’s new DA, who took office amid strident claims of being a reformer, had announced that the Rampart/CRASH probe was essentially being shut down:
“Los Angeles County prosecutors plan to close their investigation of the LAPD’s Rampart scandal without bringing charges against any more officers, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Wednesday. One former member of the district attorneys’ Rampart investigation task force said Cooley failed to solicit or accept help from any prosecutors who were on the task force before Cooley took over.”
In the post 9-11 world that we are now living in, the police can do no wrong. If you are standing in your home one night, minding your own business, and bullets suddenly rip into your body from out of nowhere … well, that’s just too damn bad. Sacrifices have to be made in time of war.
If an overzealous band of jack-booted thugs decide that kicking your door down, beating the shit out of you, planting evidence and then openly perjuring themselves in court is necessary to ‘keep the peace’ … well, that’s also just too damn bad. Some curtailment of civil liberties is to be expected in time of war.
Exactly one month after the Times carried the report of the aborting of the ridiculously incomplete Rampart investigation, another story carried by the paper began: “Finally, a gift for the person who has everything: an LAPD doll.”
It seems the Los Angeles Police Protective League is now marketing a 12″ ‘action figure,’ complete with LAPD uniform, gun, baton, pepper spray, handcuffs, and – as the Times noted approvingly – “enough attitude to keep the peace from Rampart to West L.A.”
And to think that I didn’t even know that “attitude” was what was needed to “keep the peace.” Kudos to the Times for clearing that up.
When I was a young boy, at the height of the Vietnam War, we had “G.I. Joe” to play with – the male counterpart of the ubiquitous Barbie. Little did I know that my generation was being conditioned, practically from birth, to be good little soldiers. As it turned out, of course, the war ended and our services were not needed
Now we have a new psychological warfare device masquerading as a toy, to condition a new generation of American boys for a slightly different role: domestic law enforcement officer – though the line between domestic law enforcement and overt military operations is an increasingly fine one indeed.
The training, equipment, apparel and tactics of today’s police forces are virtually indistinguishable from those employed by the military. On a regular basis, Angelenos are treated to scenes on local newscasts of small armies of LAPD officers occupying a residential neighborhood in search of a suspect. These types of arrests used to be accomplished, not too many years ago, with a handful of officers and a couple of squad cars.
But not anymore. Now what we see are scores of nameless and faceless officers, outfitted with automatic weaponry and flak jackets, ferried about in armored vehicles, and with the inevitable squadron of military-style helicopters hovering overhead. It is easy to forget that these are ‘civilian’ police actions we are witnessing, occurring just miles from our homes.
And now your kids can recreate these exciting scenes right there in the comfort of your home. Coming soon to join ‘Officer West,’ the first of the LAPD action figures to be released, will be: a K-9 officer, complete with his own dog; a motorcycle officer with, naturally, his own motorcycle; an air support officer, with his own really cool helicopter; and a SWAT team member, who will of course be outfitted in full SWAT regalia.
But my own personal favorite has to be the “riot control officer,” which a league spokesman gushingly told the Times is “just like you saw during the [Democratic National Convention].” It sounds too good to be true, but you can now own a scale model of the very same officers who beat you senseless with batons, trampled you with horses, shot you with rubber bullets and bean bags, sprayed you with pepper spray and noxious gasses, and arrested you for exercising your alleged constitutional right to peacefully assemble to address legitimate grievances.
And you’re not going to want to buy just one of these. No, you’re going to want to buy a whole bunch of them. Enough to line up along every wall of your home at least four or five deep. They’ll feel much more at home that way, as that is their natural environment. They’re not really designed to function well alone. They have been stripped of their ability to think independently and are only capable of a sort of mob mentality.
If, God forbid, one of your dolls should happen to die ‘in the line of duty,’ then you’ve really got a problem. In order to give them a proper send-off, you’re going to have to take out a second on your house so that you can buy thousands of dolls. Then you can give the departed officer a proper funeral befitting a member of the British royal family, just like the ones we see on TV.
And why, you may ask, are our law enforcement personnel deserving of such a pompous display? Is it because the job they perform is of so much more value to society than are the jobs performed by the rest of us? I hardly think so. Educators perform a far more valuable service than do the police, and yet I can’t recall ever seeing a teacher laid to rest in a ceremony rivaling the inauguration of a president.
Is it then because the police perform a job so dangerous – laying their lives on the line daily to protect the rest of us – that they are deserving of special consideration? Not really. There are any number of occupations that are far more dangerous than that performed by the police. Crab fishing in the Bering Straights is said to be the most dangerous job in the world, and yet the rather routine deaths of these brave souls are mourned by almost no one.
The case could be made that dissident writers perform a more dangerous task than do our domestic police. Just ask the surviving family and friends of such scribes as the ‘suicided’ Danny Casolaro and James Hatfield.
You may remember Hatfield as the author of the book Fortunate Son, released by St. Martin’s Press as the 2000 presidential election campaign was taking shape and then quickly pulled from shelves and mulched under pressure from the Bush family. Hatfield turned up dead in a hotel room just weeks before September 11. His last published piece was a story in the Online Journal entitled “Why Would Osama bin Laden Want to Kill Dubya, His Former Business Partner?”
Or ask the survivors of ‘former’ Naval Intelligence asset William Milton Cooper, the iconoclastic author of the overrated conspiracy tome Behold a Pale Horse. Cooper was gunned down by local Sheriff’s deputies (possibly at the instigation of federal authorities, according to some accounts) not long after he began devoting his radio broadcasts to promoting the idea that the September 11 attacks were an inside job.
Neither of these men, or the legions of others who came before them, were paid their final respects in ceremonies befitting the coronation of a king.
Why then this hero-worship of our nation’s law enforcement personnel? Why this adulation of men who are frequently little more than criminals themselves – men who differ from those they arrest only by the fact that they are protected from the consequences of their actions by virtue of the uniforms that they wear?
This hero-worship has escalated considerably since September 11. It is instructive then to look back upon the events of that fateful day to see exactly what it was that the police did to earn their enhanced status as American heroes. Towards that end, it is always interesting, when trying to make sense of any big media story, to look back upon some of the initial press reports to emerge, before the all-consuming official spin sets in.
The UK’s The Guardian, one of the world’s most respected English language newspapers, ran a lengthy report from ground zero by a trio of its reporters the day after the alleged ‘terrorist’ attacks. Here is how they described situation on the ground just after the first tower collapsed – well over an hour after the ordeal had begun:
“First a stampede; flying glass cutting into flesh and ripping the clothes of those who fled – and no sign whatsoever of the authorities, only a police officer running about like a headless chicken (in the wrong direction) shouting: ‘Get outta here!'” Later in the report it was added that: “The full rescue operation was slow to arrive.”
Still further along in the report, we find a representative of the NYPD treating the traumatized victims of the tower collapses exactly as a cynic might expect them to: “Even the smallest unrelated incident created conflict. A man who left his briefcase in the street was accosted by a cop. ‘What you doing? Hey, just keep walking.'”
Such actions, apparently, are the makings of great American heroes.
A number of other interesting details emerged in the report from The Guardian – details that to this day have not been addressed by the media, including the so-called alternative/progressive media. These details beg rather obvious questions that have gone completely unasked by our gloriously ‘free’ American press.
For instance, there is the rather interesting fact that: “People were trying desperately to get through on cell phones that were no longer functioning.” Very few accounts of the events of that day have noted that cell phones throughout the affected area suddenly stopped working. Why would this be so? Why should a building fire and collapse cause widespread cell phone failure?
Another interesting tidbit of information to emerge from The Guardian was that: “At a junction where the traffic lights had stuck on red a man in a flak jacket and combat trousers took it upon himself to direct the sparse traffic.” Who was this rather curiously attired man and what was he doing at ground zero?
And consider this rather curious factoid: “One stockbroker, Alan Redmond, said he had arrived for work at the Nasdaq exchange to be told that there was a delay in opening, and to wait.” Why was there a delay in opening the Nasdaq that morning, and how many prominent lives were spared due to this ‘delay’?
Lastly, consider that “a 47-storey building which was part of the trade centre complex also collapsed, brought down by flying debris and fire.” How is it possible that a third high-rise, and one which was not struck by a plane and doused with jet fuel, collapsed in identical fashion to the two towers? If it was due to a weakening of the structure caused by falling debris, then how is it that a building which lay between the twin towers and the third fallen structure remains standing?
These, alas, are but a few of the nagging questions that remain unasked, and certainly unanswered, in the months since “everything changed.”
Sadly, one thing that definitely hasn’t changed is the unfathomable cravenness of the U.S. media.
“Court Overturns NY Police Torture Convictions,” Associated Press, February 28, 2002
Scott Glover and Matt Lait “Slaying by Officer Is Ruled Justified,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2001
Matt Lait and Scott Glover “2nd Panel Says Police Slaying Was Justified,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2001
Steve Berry, Scott Glover and Matt Lait “D.A. Says No New Charges Expected in Rampart Probe,” Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2001
Carla Hall “Move Over Barbie, Here’s Officer West,” Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2001
Michael Ellison, Ed Vulliamy and Jane Martinson “We Got Down to the Outside and it Was Like an Apocalypse,” The Guardian, September 12, 2001