Just a few words, before the professor Gates arrest and subsequent arrest of DC lawyer Tuma fades into the memory hole.
We need abuse of authority laws with the same power as hate crime laws. We need to challenge the culture behind our police state.
This is the USA, land of the free. Not land of the probably guilty and escaped convicts. Our country shouldn’t feel like a police state. And yet (Digby):
It is very rude of citizens to do that, to be sure. But it is not a crime. The idea that people should not get angry, should not pull rank, should be rude to others is an issue for sociologists and Miss Manners, not the cops. Humans often behave badly, but that doesn’t make it illegal. For people with such tremendous power as police officers to be coddled into thinking that these are behaviors that allow them to arrest people (or worse) seems to be to far more dangerous than allowing a foolish person or two to set a bad example in the public square.
The police are failing, across the country, in their duty:
We shouldn’t have to make the same calculations about how to behave with police as we would with armed criminals. The police are supposed to be the good guys who follow the rules and the law and don’t expect innocent citizens to bow to their brute power the same way that a street gang would do. The police are not supposed wield what is essentially brute force on the entire population.
We need to change this. Its easy to be critical of other countries and cultures with police states:
f it’s someone else’s culture, we have no problem seeing the problems with making people adopt a submissive, humiliated pose merely because they’re speaking to the police, or that cops are given loosely defined laws and plenty of discretion, so they can just go on power trips and abuse people who they perceive as deserving of their oppression. When it’s someone else’s country, the excessive use of violence, leering behavior towards women, and abusing racial or ethnic minorities seems so obviously wrong. I doubt many people who are calling Gates “stupid” did anything but cheer, for instance, when reading the section of “Persepolis” where Marjane puts herself in danger by telling a cop to quit staring at her ass. When it’s not our cops, it’s a lot easier to see that demanding perfect submission to police authority is fucked the fuck up.
It is easy, yes, but it is essential to our own freedom that we make those critiques of our own police state.
We need to start by calling this behavior out wherever it rears its ugly head, and by recognizing it is a part of a single toxic problem with our culture. We need to change how we view and treat authority in this country. Children are not drug addicts being held in daycare prisons. Citizens are not obligated to bow and scrape while keeping their mouth glued shut in the presence of police officers. And we must stop giving those with the authority to imprison and hurt us even the smallest pass on that abuse of authority. Abuse of authority needs to be a serious crime. Just as hate crimes recognize that certain actions target entire communities beyond the immediate victim, we need to recognize that abuse of authority does the same.
I am advocating a new kind of law. When an authority figure oversteps their bounds and uses their power to assault, imprison or take advantage of another person, there needs to be strict and meaningful enforcement alongside the explicit recognition of the existence and impact of that abuse of authority.