Police Vans Feel Guilty

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Officer Dewey has to call in a van for Beastie. I ask if maybe we can get a ride in a SWAT van, just to see what that’s like, but no, they have a regular white utility van. Beastie rides in the back. The trip goes a little faster than the one uptown. That doesn’t change how weird it is, riding in a cop car. We have to keep convincing ourselves we haven’t done anything wrong and we aren’t being secretly taken to a jail somewhere.

The Thing about Growing Up in Jokertown (A Tor.com Original) by Carrie Vaughn

Re-Post: Sheriff, NRA and Welfare

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(Note: I finally got around to writing a response to this article. The revised blog post is being re-published as a new entry.)

This is the kind of uninformed vitriol that makes addressing poverty in the USA unnecessarily difficult.

In an appearance Monday on Fox, Sheriff Clarke, who is African-American, offered his explanation for the major cause of riots in Milwaukee and other cities: “You know what encourages this? The growth of the welfare state. These are underclass behaviors. Seventy percent of the kids born in Milwaukee … are born without an engaged father in their life. So I look at the progressive policies that have marginalized black dads. They push them to the side and say ‘you’re not needed.’ Uncle Sam is going to be the dad, he’s going to provide for the kids, he’s going to feed the kids … Uncle Sam has been a horrible father. Uncle Sam does not love these kids. He might keep a little food in their mouths and that is about it. But we all know the importance of an intact family, what it can do to shape the behavior of kids.”

Of course, it is unsurprising that this appeared on FOX News. But, media biases aside, what this man is saying is that community networks have broken down and that needs to change.

Um…YES!…liberals and anti-poverty activists have been saying exactly that for decades. In fact, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Quotes from this books can be found HERE)  clearly illustrates the way that a lack of universal healthcare, widespread poverty (particularly mostly through disturbingly common low-wage jobs), the crash caused by predatory lending within the banking system, the actions of predatory landlords and…ultimately…relatively recently established culture of evict-take everything-and-forced movement has resulted in the breakdown of all kinds of community networks. In short: people unable to land in a physical location they can call home are significantly less capable of creating and maintaining relationships with other people.

A young African-American man found by a TV camera during the weekend riot said: “The rich people, they got all this money, and they not … trying to give us none.” Really? All of that tax money spent on anti-poverty programs for the last 50 years never trickled-down to him? This poisonous attitude has been promoted by progressives and has not helped the poor rise above their circumstances.

What is it about right-wing conservatives constantly refusing to evaluate the actions of the rich? If you have money you are without blame. Challenging the lack of financial opportunities available to specific communities is automatically proof that the individual asking the question is lazy or trying to ‘work the system.’ There is something inherently wrong with that level of blind-faith in a select community of people based on financial resources alone.

This young man should talk to Sheriff Clarke about changing his attitude. Some self-evaluation and an internal re-adjustment would do more for him than any anti-poverty program the Democrats could dream up.

The only anti-poverty program the conservatives have ever developed is this: take away everything and toss the low lifes out into the street. If they die of starvation, exposure or violence, so much the better – fewer people and more stuff for us!

If the right-wing ever took the time to actually acknowledge the problem and TRY to address it, they might see just how real and difficult and complicated (and directly related to the actions and decisions of wealthy people) this issue is.

They also might find more poor people coming their way. But, those people would be lower-class people and…well…that’s not who they are, what they do or how they operate.

Thomas: Sheriff David Clarke speaks truth, Clarion-Ledger, Cal Thomas, Syndicated columnist, August 19, 2016

Safety Police and Dog

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Gloria gave Officer Buckle a big kiss on the nose. Officer Buckle gave Gloria a nice pat on the back. Then, Officer Buckle thought of his best safety tip yet…

Safety Tip #101: Always Stick With your Buddy!

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Notes of interest:

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University of Chicago sociologist Forrest Stuart spent five years hanging out on Los Angeles’s grittiest streets for his new book, Down, Out and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row. “I figured this was ground zero for trying to start over, for testing the American bootstraps story, and I wanted to see if and how it could work,” Stuart explains

Right away I started seeing how the police, in part just because of their numbers in Skid Row, were creating a situation I’d never seen before. Just as a guy was starting to get on his feet—for example, he had finally secured a bed at a shelter—some small infraction would cut him back.

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It could be as little as getting a single ticket for loitering. For people living on dollars at day, to suddenly have to pay $150 for a sidewalk ticket is huge! If they don’t pay, they can be arrested. Not only do they have to spend time in jail, they usually lose their bed at the shelter or their room in low-rent apartments. In a lot of shelters or apartments, if someone doesn’t show up at the end of the day, the managers give away all their things. So now they’d be right back to square one. Broke, homeless, just trying to get a roof over their head. The bootstraps were cut.

This Sociologist Spent Five Years on LA’s Hyper-Policed Skid Row. Here’s What He Learned, Mother Jones, by Maria Streshinsky, Aug. 1, 2016

 

The Reason People Do Not Trust The Police: Abduction and Human Trafficking

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Having lived and worked in both the Fargo/Moorehead area and Duluth, MN, this story does not surprise me. Sadly, it is far from the first time I’ve run across an article like this. Also, this is neither the first nor the last woman to experience this problem, yet police continue to refuse to take it seriously: Crimes against Native American women raise questions about police response, The Guardian, by Zoe Sullivan (01/19/2016)

North Dakota nightmare: Lake Vermilion woman abducted, taken to Bakken oil patch, The TimberJay, by Marshall Helmberger and Jodi Summit (06/03/2015)

A woman was traveling through North Dakota when she found herself stranded. While contacting family on her cell phone she was abducted:

The man had snuck up behind her while she was messaging friends and family members on her progress and was focused on her laptop computer. It was the last message her family would receive for almost a week.

Somehow she managed to escape:

The following few days, she said, are lost in a fog, as her abductor may have kept her drugged. She woke up to the dinging of an open car door, and found herself lying in the backseat of a beat-up Honda Accord with a missing back window. With her abductor apparently outside the vehicle, she stumbled out of the back seat and crawled away. “I tried to run,” she said, but her vision was blurry. Despite that, she managed to make her way down a steep ditch and her abductor apparently didn’t pursue her, but her memory of her escape is far from clear.

And survived through the help of a Good Samaritan:

While she had begun her ordeal in Casselton, in far eastern North Dakota, after escaping her abductor she found herself in a remote part of northwestern North Dakota. She said she wandered for at least two days, without food or water, before finally being rescued by a North Dakota man, who spotted her wandering across open country near the tiny town of Wildrose.

Then the police do THIS:

While Edith had hoped her experience would help law enforcement officials apprehend a kidnapper and possible human trafficker, she soon discovered that officers at the Williston Police Department had little interest in her story. She said officers refused to take a statement about her abduction. Instead, they ran her own record and found a 2011 traffic violation from Grand Forks still outstanding—and arrested her on a bench warrant for the unpaid ticket.

“I kept trying to tell them that I’d been taken, but they wouldn’t listen. One officer told me I was full of __it and was just trying to get out of the warrant,” said Edith.

According to Edith, the Williston police offered no medical assistance. Instead, they booked her into a holding facility overnight and shipped her to a jail in Minot the following day.

This is just one of the many reasons why people do not trust the police. It’s also living proof that the militarization of the police force is ineffective. When police officers are so distanced from the human beings they are tasked to serve that they can’t recognize a situation for what it is…or take the OPPORTUNITY it presents to capture a REAL bad guy…then there is something seriously wrong.

Financial Inequality, Mass Incarceration and Homelessness

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People who are not poor and who are not dependent upon public assistance for housing need not fear that, if their son, daughter, caregiver, or relative is caught with some marijuana at school or shoplifts from a drugstore, they will find themselves suddenly evicted—homeless. But for countless poor people—particularly racial minorities who disproportionately rely on public assistance—that possibility looms large. As a result, many families are reluctant to allow their relatives—particularly those who are recently released from prison—to stay with them, even temporarily.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

Giggle Book Award: Bug Mobile!

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The Giggle Book Award for this month is Bug Patrol!

This is a fun story about a bug police officer who keeps the peace in the bug world. Every new problem begins with police car noises (“Wee-o! Wee-o!”) and the phrase “Bug mobile coming through!” The children in my life love to speak those parts along with the reader.

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“3:15. Sidewalk Swell.
Picket line at Roach Hotel.
Families want a safer home.
Where they’re free to eat and roam!”

Bug Patrol, written by Denise Dowling Mortensen and illustrated by Cece Bell

Financial Inequality and Legal Consequence

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Many states utilize “poverty penalties”—piling on additional late fees, payment plan fees, and interest when individuals are unable to pay all their debts at once, often enriching private debt collectors in the process. Some of the collection fees are exorbitant. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, and Florida allows private debt collectors to tack on a 40 percent surcharge to the underlying debt.

Two-thirds of people detained in jails report annual incomes under $12,000 prior to arrest. Predictably, most ex-offenders find themselves unable to pay the many fees, costs, and fines associated with their imprisonment, as well as their child-support debts (which continue to accumulate while a person is incarcerated). As a result, many ex-offenders have their paychecks garnished. Federal law provides that a child-support enforcement officer can garnish up to 65 percent of an individual’s wages for child support. On top of that, probation officers in most states can require that an individual dedicate 35 percent of his or her income toward the payment of fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution charged by numerous agencies. Accordingly, a former inmate living at or below the poverty level can be charged by four or five departments at once and can be required to surrender 100 percent of his or her earnings. As a New York Times editorial soberly observed, “People caught in this impossible predicament are less likely to seek regular employment, making them even more susceptible to criminal relapse.”

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

The Occupation

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It is not uncommon for a young black teenager living in a ghetto community to be stopped, interrogated, and frisked numerous times in the course of a month, or even a single week, often by paramilitary units.

The militarized nature of law enforcement in ghetto communities has inspired rap artists and black youth to refer to the police presence in black communities as “The Occupation.” In these occupied territories, many black youth automatically “assume the position” when a patrol car pulls up, knowing full well that they will be detained and frisked no matter what.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

Poverty, War, Power and Drugs

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Confined to ghetto areas and lacking political power, the black poor are convenient targets.

Thus it is here, in the poverty-stricken, racially segregated ghettos, where the War on Poverty has been abandoned and factories have disappeared, that the drug war has been waged with the greatest ferocity.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander