Thursday, January 29, 2015

Racists Gonna Be Racist

The video above is not terribly unusual, though it should make you a little angry (or a lot angry, depending on how much outrage you can still muster up over illegal police behavior). It's a video of a William Wingate, 70 year old man (who happens to be a veteran) being arrested for threatening a police office with a weapon (a golf club he regularly uses as a cane).

If you watch the video, you'll note that he does not seem to be threatening her in any way. If you possess even the most simplistic understanding of physics, you'll note that it would be difficult for an elderly man to threaten someone who is inside of a car (as the officer was when the interaction began) with a golf club.

Turns out the Seattle PD and city prosecutor agreed, as they decided to drop all charges against Wingate. This little case is really important for two reasons: first, note that Wingate had already plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a weapon. One thing most people not familiar with the criminal justice system have a hard time grasping is the number of people who plead guilty to crimes they have not committed (hell, according to the Innocence Project, nearly a third of all people exonerated from death row had confessed to the crimes they didn't commit). Why would an innocent person confess to a crime they didn't commit? There are myriad reasons (read the Innocence Project list for a rundown of the common ones), but in this specific case, I'd be willing to be it's a combination of the fact that Wingate probably had to rely on a public defender (as do roughly 80% of all people charged with crimes) and was in a he said-she said situation until the video was recaptured. And who do you think any judge or jury is going to believe? The officer or the person charged with attempting to assault an officer? Especially if the accused is a Black man.

But the other, more important takeaway from this is that video is not a cure all, and is only effective when combined with community pressure to reshape our police departments into forces for the protection of all citizens. Because you'll note that in the video, the arresting officer is well aware she is on camera. Hell, she even tries to use the fact that the interaction is being recorded to intimidate the innocent person she's arresting on false charges. This is obviously not some mistake the officer made, but an obvious and blatant abuse of power committed by someone who was sure they could get away with it. And, of course, she has; her entire punishment for such a blatant disregard for the law consists of the incredibly harsh method of "counseling from her supervisor." I'd sure love to see those counseling sessions. "Let's see here, it looks like you're willing to completely disregard the law you took an oath to uphold just so you can harass an elderly man who is doing nothing wrong whatsoever. Umm…don't do that again. On camera, I mean."

Finally, I've barely touched on race here. Because if you possess even the most simplistic understanding of American race relations and the role of police in enforcing them, you know the role race played. But if you need further evidence, here's a Facebook post from the arresting officer in this case:

Take a second to savor the sweet, sweet irony of a racist prick complaining that Black people unfairly say they're targeted by police for no reason going out and unfairly targeting Black people for no reason. Would almost be funny if it weren't real life...

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