Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 13: the Tulsa shooting

I really hate these stories. But they are an important aspect of institutional white racism in the United States.

Ian Millhiser gives an account of the Oklahoma shooting of yet another unarmed black man in the back, with video, ‘Fuck Your Breath’ — Video Shows Cop Mocking Unarmed Man As He Dies From Police Bullet Think Progress 04/12/2015.

Cenk Uygur explains the case here, Elderly Volunteer Thinks Gun Is Taser, Kills Unarmed Black Man 04/13/2015:

One unusual feature of this case is that despite the Tulsa Sheriff's Department supporter the killer cop, the district attorney is charging him with a felony in the killing, as the Tulsa World reports, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charges reserve deputy with second-degree manslaughter 04/13/2015:

“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,’” District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in the statement.

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent under the law, but we will be prepared to present evidence at future court hearings."
Shurff Stanley Glanz, on the other hand, was good buddies with the killer and said, in effect, oh, hail, boy, it was just an accident! With the undertone, of course, that it was just a n*****r who was killed. Black lives really don't seem to matter to Shurff Glanz.

Probably like most people, I'd like to believe that most cops are decent people who are actually committed to following the law. But when a cop stops you, unless you know the cop personally, how can anyone be sure he's not dealing with cops like this? While as a rule it's not a good idea to run from cops in such a situation, it's pretty obvious that the man who was shot genuinely had something to fear from this guy - who wasn't actually a regular cop at all but some wealthy guy playing cop with the city's approval!

An unusual twist in this story is that Bates, the reserve deputy who shot Harris, is not a full-time officer. He is a 73-year-old insurance executive and a wealthy donor to the sheriff’s department. The department includes 130 reserve deputies who are volunteers who donate their time to law enforcement. Bates is classified as "advanced reserve," the highest level of reserve deputy, a position that permits him to "do anything a full-time deputy can do."
For more on Bates' donations, see: Ziva Branstetter, Tulsa County reserve deputy bought cars, equipment for undercover unit Tulsa World 04/13/2015.

As we saw with Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Bates can also expect to receive donations from white supremacist admirers around the country. I haven't heard of a fundraising site being set up for him yet.

And given how the other presumably regular cops respond on the video, I'm not sure they qualify as the Good Cops either. And if the Good Cops aren't willing to enforce the law against the Bad Cops - well, it doesn't exactly generate a lot of trust in the police department.

The I-meant-to-use-my-Taser excuse may be true. That was the excuse for Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who murdered an unarmed young black man named Oscar Grant in 2009 by shooting him in the back while he was laying face down on the ground. That murder was the basis of the Fruitvale Station film. Mehserle's case was highly unusual in that he actually was tried and convicted of a felony, though he got only two years for an entirely unnecessary murder, and the Taser excuse helped him avoid a longer sentence.

But until the judicial system, including cops, prosecutors, judges and juries actually fix the culture of impunity for killer cops, we'll continue have a big problem. In this Oklahoma case, what kind of responsible officials of any kind let some old fart who donated stuff to the department go out with a loaded gun with the authority of a deputy? His only actual experience as a policeman was supposedly back in 1964-5. I'm also pretty dubious that cops yelling "f**k your breath" to a dying man that a 73-year-old honorary cop just shot in the back should be given the authority to carry a weapon on behalf of law enforcement. I'm guessing that shouting "Taser, Taser" the way this killer cop did may become standard practice for cops about to shoot somebody in the back.

Meyserle in the Oakland BART case did avoid a longer mandatory sentence because the jury thought his claim that he meant to use the Taser constituted reasonable doubt that he intended to murder the black guy he shot in the back while he was lying face down on the ground (also the Meyserle scenario). This blogger explains why there's a good chance that Michael Slager in South Carolina may walk: Why Slager Will Walk Zandar Against the Stupid 04/10/2015.

If trust between the community and the police is any part of a city's or county's goal, I don't see how it can happen in a department that tolerates things like this. And I know from the experience of San Jose and the City of Oakland around here that a department where serious misconduct has become accepted is very difficult for even responsible officials to clean up. Between the War on Drugs, the War or Terrorism and a culture of impunity for white cops who murder unarmed black people for no good reason, these are definitely not easy problems to fix. And, unfortunately, lots of white people see no need to fix them at all.

More from the Tulsa World:

Editorial, Time for a thorough review of Tulsa County reserve deputy program 04/12/2015:

So why was the reserve deputy involved in the first place?

The sheriff’s office says there is nothing odd about that.

Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark said it’s not unusual for a reserve deputy to be on an assignment such as the Violent Crimes Task Force. They’re an important force extender for the department, he said.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, who reviewed the incident independently for the sheriff’s office, said he has looked at the reserve program in the past and that it meets national standards.
Even more scary if that's true!

The reservists are typically unpaid volunteers who work other full-time jobs, but they go through the same although abbreviated training components as a normal deputy and have full powers and authority of a deputy while on duty.

Bates has received hundreds of hours of specialized training, including homicide investigation and meth lab investigation and decontamination. He also was chairman of and a $2,500 donor to Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s 2012 re-election campaign.

We respect Sgt. Clark, but we’re not convinced.

We think the sheriff’s reserve deputy program is a good idea. We encourage civic-minded people interested in helping law enforcement to join.

But reservists should be working in appropriate roles for what they are: concerned, dedicated volunteers.

Clark said TPD has used reservists in undercover operations, but a spokesman for the department said they are mostly used for traffic control and parking lot patrols during “safe shopper” operations.

There’s danger there too, but it’s a far less exposed position than being part of an undercover gun buy from a drug dealer. We want full-time, paid deputies doing the gritty work of policing the county. [my emphasis]

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