Widespread distrust of police force well-earned

Published in the Daily Illini January 23rd, 2012

The future of our educated, debt-laden youth is uncertain.

Uprisings around the world attest to this concern while institutions are crumbling, their replacements all but defined. Questioning the system has reached the mainstream, so everybody faces the same dilemma: Who can I trust?

There are uniting currents of similarity in the revolutions here and abroad that are even observable locally. One particularly radiant example is a well-earned distrust of the police in general and how they robotically suppress dissent through violence, corruption and entrapment in service of wasteful government policy and the “1 percent.”

Of course, widespread police abuse is not a modern problem. Even those who have not experienced it firsthand are aware of the fire hoses in Birmingham, Rodney King, or, at the very least, the police captain from “The Godfather.”

Sometimes I seriously ask myself and others, “Where are the police not a negative force?” We all love the occasional friendly cop who happens to be a friend’s dad and gives pretty good directions, but one need not search deep into history to inspire a serious re-consideration if we the people are able to trust the police.

Here are some of the more dastardly snapshots, all occurring within this year, that illustrate the harmful and extensive actions waged against the public interest.

1. If you haven’t seen the University of California, Berkeley pepper spray video on the Internet, observe the relaxed composure of the officer as he sprays the orange gas at the students Occupying their quad. Such controlled physical aggression suggests that police departments have systemized this toxic approach.

Unfortunately for the police, this strategy of dealing with protestors works directly, and rapidly, against the police’s intentions. Sometimes it seems like the police are working to help the Occupy movement because they are constantly adding so much fuel to the fire.

2. This past September, “Operation Fast and Furious” found its way from the U.S.-Mexico drug war battlefield to the newspapers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used taxpayer money to purchase at least 2,500 50-caliber rifles (extremely powerful weapons) and sell them to Mexican drug-runners. Insiders at the ATF described the strategy as “insane,” met with “yelling and screaming” opposition to it by and a chilling, prophetic fear: After a shootout between the border patrol and smugglers, one informant said, “We would all hold our breath hoping it wasn’t one of ‘our’ guns.”

Public outrage erupted when Brian Terry, an elite U.S. Border Patrol agent, was shot and killed in a remote canyon by one of the guns ATF sold onto the black market. Although more extreme than everyday police abuses, this bureaucratic scandal is a crime against citizens of two countries done indirectly but nevertheless destructive.

3. Last week New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dramatically revealed the foiling of another “lone wolf” terrorist plot. In a somewhat surprising twist, the FBI chose not to participate this time because of doubts with the suspect’s terrorist credentials, namely that he had little money and made his most incriminating statements to an informant after both had smoked weed.

This is a significant revelation because it is apparent that the FBI admitted that the informant himself, not the suspect, was concocting the bombing plot. This happens to be a common strategy at the FBI. With months of encouragement and money, impressionable Muslim-Americans with a growing animosity toward the U.S. are targeted and then given the necessary materials to commit a rogue terrorist attack. After last week’s announcement, there have been five of these “heroically broken-up at the last minute” cases although none of the suspects took a single step toward violence before the undercover agents contacted them.

To those who do not experience these diverse methods of mistreatment, the police act more like tax collectors. With the incentive to write fines to “underage” drinkers, marijuana smokers, cars parked in the wrong place and even jay-walkers, seeing a cop usually means strategically avoiding a tax … err, I mean a crime.

The changing political climate deals in a very simplified numeric tone: 99 percent of the wealth holders are struggling against the interests of the 1 percent. The police and enforcement authorities are tools used to violently displace the 99 percent, arm criminals with semi-automatic rifles and entrap domestic “terrorists” and (less-detrimentally) young, intelligent students scheming to break the law every weekend to drink alcohol.

To question and critique has become a virtue for all of us — to change our world we must know who we can or cannot trust.