Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I would have bet big money when this whole Gates arrest situation took place that there are cops out there not only siding with the officer, but also making all kinds of racist remarks about Gates and revealing their own bigotry. And in this day and age, it was inevitable that one or two of them would get caught doing it, either on tape or on a blog somewhere. Bingo.

An officer in the Boston Police Department was suspended yesterday for allegedly writing a racially charged e-mail about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to colleagues at the National Guard, a law enforcement official said. Mayor Thomas M. Menino compared the officer to a cancer and said he is “gone, g-o-n-e” from the force.

The law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Officer Justin Barrett referred to the black scholar as a ” jungle monkey” in the letter, written in reaction to media coverage of Gates’s arrest July 16.

To their credit, the city is not playing games with this:

“Yesterday afternoon, Commissioner Davis was made aware that Officer Barrett was the author of correspondence which included racially charged language,” she said. “At that time, Commissioner Davis immediately stripped Officer Barrett of his gun and badge, and at this time we will be moving forward with the hearing process.”

This is Boston, for crying out loud. There is a very long history of racial problems in that city and anyone who doesn’t recognize that there are probably a whole lot of cops in that city that hate blacks is living in a fantasy world. Does that mean all cops are racist? Of course not. That would be absurd. But it’s more than you think. Mark Fuhrman doesn’t represent all cops, of course, but he represents a big enough minority that it ought to scare the hell out of anyone with skin darker than mine.

For 6 years on this blog I have documented a seemingly endless litany of police abuses either caught on tape or proven in court – cops lying, planting evidence, faking reports, threatening people, breaking the law themselves in the most flagrant ways and getting no punishment, killing innocent people (and dogs), stealing huge amounts of cash and property from people who were never even charged with a crime much less convicted of one. We left that “a few bad apples” idea behind a long time ago.

The corruption in our police departments is far, far worse than most people would even dare to imagine.


  1. #1 abb3w
    July 31, 2009

    Paul Lundgren: What can be done to change this state of affairs regarding police corruption?

    On one level, yes, there will always be a few bad apples. However, that implies there must always be an ongoing search to try and restrain them. The assorted police abuses Ed lists all appear to fall under the Color Of Law area of the FBI’s Civil Rights division. Public complaints by witnesses likely are helpful for getting them moving. (Interestingly, from the statute description, it looks like it might be applicable in the torture memos.)

    Once the FBI has built the case, one of the DOJ’s US Attorneys needs to prosecute. However, under ex-Prez Dubya, the civil rights division was (as I understand) effectively gutted. This is a political problem. While political problems can be addressed by other means, that is a can of worms the opening of which will necessarily thereafter require a much bigger can to put the worms back in. Therefore, focus on political solutions to political problems.

    One approach would require a young reporter willing to do seriously tedious legwork in pursuit of a story. Step one: gather a list of all incidents of police abuse from some one year period, with the requirement that the abuse be either on video or proven in court. Step two: find out how many of these were investigated by the FBI, and how many were prosecuted by the DOJ. Step three: publish a story on this, making it clear that the problem is that the DOJ is not doing enough to control the fraction of bad apples. If you want to keep the honest cops friendly, also look up the total number of police in the US, and indicate the tiny fraction involved in a proven/taped abuse… but, of course, since it is such a small fraction, you can emphasize that there is no excuse for the DOJ not to make sure each case referred to it gets to court.

    If the problem is the FBI not investigating, same approach, different focus.

    If the problem is lack of complaints… well, that’s more of a social problem than a political one.

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