MINNEAPOLIS – On May 28, 126 police officers in Seattle filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that restrictions placed on the department by a federal court in 2012 regarding officers’ ability to use excessive force was a violation of their constitutional rights as officers.
Although the restrictions were put in place by the feds to curb the rampant unconstitutional policing the city was experiencing — especially when it came to the use of excessive and deadly force against mostly minority suspects — the officers argue that having to restrain themselves while on duty only leads to an increase in the number of citizens and officers killed.
In their 81-page filing, the officers specifically argue that they are often put in situations in which they have no choice but to overreact and use force. They also say that the current “impractical and burdensome” restrictions only “trap” officers and lead to an increase in misconduct violations.
Represented by a Washington, D.C.-based former civil rights attorney, the lawsuit reportedly reflects the “political agenda and rhetoric from the virulently anti-reform police union, the Seattle Police Officers Guild,” and not necessarily the feelings of the Seattle Police Department itself. However, Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, says the union does not support the lawsuit.
Still, the Seattle-based officers have continued to push for a federal judge to issue an injunction to freeze the use-of-force regulations, at least temporarily, as well as provide financial compensation for those officers who were improperly disciplined or lost wages for violating the use-of-force policies.
Whether the officers’ request will be approved or denied remains to be seen. But one thing that seems to be evident is that law enforcement’s push for more power is not unique to any one part of the country.
Incidents of police brutality in Salinas, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Anaheim, Calif.; Minneapolis, have put the issue in the spotlight. Police reform advocates and materIals provided to MintPress News suggest this could be because police officers seem to have a mentality in which they believe they should shoot first and ask questions later.
According to John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and author of “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,” “The increased use of violence by police is one of the most dangerous trends occurring in the United States today. Indeed, our militarized police are clearly viewing the average American as something akin to an enemy combatant.
“In fact, unarmed Americans are being shot by police on a routine basis. Several decades ago, this was unheard of. Moreover, the increased use of SWAT team raids only exacerbates the problem in creating an aggressive police force that is similar to the founding armies America’s founders warned us against.”
If the protests against local police departments that have popped up as a result of these officer-involved shootings in recent years, months and weeks are any indication, it seems the public has had enough.
Intent of a firearm
Law enforcement has historically said officers don’t shoot to kill, but that they only shoot to harm or stop a suspect, so the apparent increase in officer-involved shootings was puzzling to some.
However, police reform advocates have taken the police shootings as an opportunity to argue that the United States is becoming a militarized police state, while several officers have attributed the increase in deaths to people responding to law enforcement in a more violent manner than they used to, the idea that news travels farther thanks to social media, and people now being more likely to be armed than they were before.
But many police reform advocates and concerned citizens are not convinced that another factor isn’t at play.
After coming across a crime scene in which a 20-year-old was shot in the back by police officers, a Minnesota resident says he was curious about what kind of instructions police officers were being given regarding the use of force, especially since he learned that the story the police gave to reporters was entirely different from the one they had posted on their Facebook page.
Concerned about this and another killing, “Jack,” who asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation, has attended 24 hours of training for law enforcement officers this year.
Jack attended two classes — “The Bulletproof Warrior” and “Anatomy of Force Incidents” — organized by the private, for-profit law enforcement training organization Calibre Press.
Instructors for the courses include some of the most famous police trainers in the U.S., such as John Bostain, a program specialist at the Law Enforcement Training Center whose career has also included stints with the Hampton, Va., police department, as well as experience as part of a SWAT team, narcotics investigations and as an academy instructor.
The other instructor Jack encountered was Jim Glennon, owner and director of training for Calibre Press. Glennon has worked in various positions from patrol officer to lieutenant in Illinois, and served as the first Commander of Investigations for the DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force in 1998.
Jack was able to get into the classes even though he is not employed by any law enforcement agency because the organization allows officers to pay for the trainings themselves, since not every department wants their officers attending these training events. Plus, as he told MintPress, he looks like a stereotypical police officer — a white male who has broad-shoulders, a close shave and a short haircut — so not many people questioned him.
He says he doesn’t have a troubled past with the police, pointing out that his only interactions with law enforcement involve parking tickets. But because he looks like the stereotypical police officer and feels police officers represent white culture, he decided to investigate what was happening.
“I felt morally obliged to help a too-trusting public see what is happening,” he said.