Monday, July 18, 2016

Black and Blue (and Green, Part 2)

Odd, the last thing I wrote in my last post was, "Frankly, if that's the kind of job you want, join the army and deploy to a war zone. And get out of law enforcement." After another ghastly ambush on law enforcement yesterday in Baton Rouge, a common thread beyond race emerges: the shooter in Baton Rouge and the shooter in Dallas were both former Army/Marines who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who both used the "open carry" laws passed in Louisiana and Texas to their advantage in the ambushes they carried out.

As investigators worked, details about Mr. Long, 29, of Kansas City, Mo., began to emerge. Like the gunman who killed five police officers more than a week ago in Dallas, Mr. Long had served abroad in the military.

On Sunday, officers observed a man, wearing all black and holding a rifle, outside the beauty supply store, the colonel said. In the next four minutes, there were reports of shots fired and officers struck, said Colonel Edmonson, whose agency has taken the lead on the investigation, helped by local and federal investigators.
Same MO as the Dallas shooter: by appearing in public legally armed with an assault rifle, the shooter evades instant identification as a threat, allowing police to be drawn into standard approach/questioning, and thus ripe for targeting. These open carry statutes, which are fundamentally a perversion of the rule of law, are literally making marks of the men and women in law enforcement.

The Cleveland police actually went so far as to ask the governor to suspend open carry around the Republican Convention kicking off today, arguing the same threat (the governor, Kasich, not surprisingly declined their request). 
The attack in Baton Rouge resonated in Cleveland, where delegates were gathering for this week’s Republican National Convention. Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, called on Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio to temporarily suspend the state’s open-carry laws in light of the recent tragedies.
But while the motivation for these shootings (supposedly race related) is the only coverage the media seems to be engaging in, the more common aspects (other than the open-carry, easy access to assault rifles) seem to be the military background, training, and lack of follow-up veteran's care these guys need after coming back from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and hitting the streets here.
Pentagon records released just after the shooting show Johnson's service didn't end until April 2015. In an email statement Saturday, an Army spokeswoman said that Johnson was never formally discharged; he was released from active duty "with an Honorable characterization" in August 2014. Even after his reserve service ended the following year and he was no longer affiliated with a unit, he could have been recalled on an individual basis.

In any case, those close to Johnson say, the Army did little or nothing to check up on someone it had trained to kill, and who had shown signs of mental distress. At one point, he sought help from the VA for a back injury, according to his mother. But he became overwhelmed by the hassle and paperwork and gave up. Fischbach, the squad leader, also questions the Army's follow-up.
So PTSD, social isolation and marginalization, and perhaps other forms of mental illness, which are not getting treated, then pervert what is an otherwise peaceful protest movement such as Black Lives Matter, as a call to arms. And all of this is driving the police, understandably, into an even more heightened state of anxiety and defensiveness.
The twin attacks — three officers dead Sunday in Baton Rouge, five killed on July 7 in Dallas, along with at least 12 injured over all — have set off a period of fear, anguish and confusion among the nation’s 900,000 state and local law enforcement officers. Even the most hardened veterans call this one of the most charged moments of policing they have experienced.

Officers from Seattle to New Orleans are pairing up in squad cars for added safety and keeping their eyes open for snipers while walking posts. It is an anxious time: Officers must handle not only vocal denunciations from peaceful protesters who criticize abusive policing, but also physical attacks by a tiny few on the periphery.

“We’ve seen nothing like this at all,” said Darrel W. Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and an instructor at the Public Safety Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins University. “The average officer in America, who was tense anyway, their tension and vigilance is going to increase even more. Police officers have always been vulnerable, and they know it. But somewhere inside you, you didn’t think it would happen. But now we’re seeing it happen.”
Even though, as the article goes on to note, law enforcement deaths in the line of duty remain at historic lows, that fact that we've had eight officers killed, ambush style, in a matter of weeks, is beyond alarming. And the fact that it's happening at the hands of military-trained veterans, whose knowledge of, and easy access to, assault rifles and how to use them, even more startling.

Eventually, one assumes, 40+ years of militarized policing is going to produce a militarized response among some in the public. Throw in race, these perverted open-carry statutes, and the toxic anti-government rage unleashed in 2010 (which was fundamentally about race, but for which the police become the perfect symbol of in the eyes of the deranged), and you get the summer of 2016.

Pray for a calm week in Cleveland.

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