By David Tulis
The violence of policing against local economy and free markets is evident on certain days when the news flow piles up and suggests to pliable minds the need to call for peacekeeping reforms that separate peacekeeping from the modern state.
Whether armed sieges or deadly car chases, police and sheriff’s departments in the South have made a strong impression these past days as regards their officers’ might and courage.
➤ Necessity of a gunbattle. In Walker County, just south of Chattanooga, police reject steps that could have avoided bloodshed in an armed confrontation. Jose Alegre, 64, is slain just after midnight Saturday morning after police in military gear storm his residence in Rossville, Ga. Mr. Alegre had become angry at a propane service tech, Charles Ridge, and his son, Deacon, from whom he had ordered a service call. He threatens the two, fires at least one bullet at them, missing. SWAT arrives, Mr. Alegre barricades himself in his house on Sheila Gail Lane, refusing to negotiate or to come out. At 12:30 a.m., police fire tear gas through the windows. Mr. Alegre shoots at them, and about 1¼ hours later, more gunfire as officers storm the house. He shoots at the attackers, and they kill him.
➤ Violence against a woman. Two cops investigating an open door at a public school in Collegedale carefully enter the building the night of Jan. 11. All signs are that no burglar is about, but that a cleaning crew is busy at the facility. “Knowing the school had been burglarized in the past,” says a TV report, “they made entry through the open door and with firearms drawn to ‘tactically’ clear the building.
After seeing cleaning supplies, they thought it may be a janitor. The report said they ‘came upon a trashcan and some cleaning supplies outside a student restroom area and briefly discussed the potential presence of the school’s janitorial staff.’” They encounter Juana Raymundo, 36, wearing a ABM company T-shirt. The legal Guatemalan immigrant speaks no English, but the two cops have their pistols drawn. She ignores commands to stop, and runs down a hallway, breaks into a sprint. In a parking lot they shoot her with a stun gun, yelling at her, “Alto, Policia.”
Mrs. Raymundo is charged with evading arrest and has to post huge money — F$750 — to get out. Contacting her employer would quickly enough have told officers who’d fled and saved some thousands of volts that sent her writhing to the tarmac.
➤ Terrifying risks to public. Cops’ engaged in high-speed chases cause two deadly crashes three days apart in Atlanta. In one of them, a motorist fleeing police crashes into a car driven by Dorothy Smith Wright, 75, of Atlanta. Slain with her are a 12-year-old grandson Cameron Costner and 6-year-old Layla Partridge, both of Fayetteville, Ga.
After the stolen Chevy Suburban crashes into them just after 9 Sunday morning, the man behind the wheel flees and was focus of a manhunt. LaTaucha Harris, Mrs. Wright’s niece, says the family is speechless. “I don’t think we’ve really processed it. I can’t find words. *** I just can’t find words.”
More than just good relations
Community policing is a 20-year-old concept that seeks to mitigate the alienation and hostility engendered by violent tactics and bellicose fund-raising and fee skimming for municipal governments. Officials in Cleveland, Tenn., have created a unit to be involved in community relations outreach. It is hoped such efforts will nip anti-police thinking and rhetoric in the bud.
But public relations and putting Chattanooga’s Chief Fred Fletcher and other cops on Facebook and Twitter are not enough because they do not alter the military dynamic of modern policing.
Policing creates an occupational hazard for us civilians, by which I mean commercial government acts — in its police departments — as a state force of occupation. Police and their commercial operations are the mechanical unifying force imposed upon the organic life of peacetime human society and culture.
Police chases are highly risky for innocent members of the public. Officers give chase, lacking a sense of proportion between the dangers to innocent people and the goal of the race — solving a reported property crime of a publicly registered object, a motor vehicle. Is solving a property crime now worth risking death for passersby by an ostensible peace-keeper?
Policing often seems to be about policemen and their sense of honor and duty and less about general benefits to the public.
The cleaning woman chased and tased is equally remarkable and brutal. What if the officers had let her get away, given their strong suspicion she was the cleaning woman? A call to her employer would have settled matters. But no, they chase her and shoot her as if she were a criminal. She is a terrified immigrant who has had wicked experiences with cops her her old country, perhaps, with their fine uniforms, drawn guns and night-time protection to do as they please with lone women. The officers’ crying out they are police is not reason to stop, but to flee.
In the shootout with Mr. Allegre, battle fatigues are standard: Lace-up, combat-style boots; black, camouflage, or olive-colored pants and shirts, sometimes with “ninja-style” or balaclava hoods; Kevlar helmets and vests; gas masks, knee pads, gloves, communication devices, and boot knives; and military-grade weapons, such as the Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun, the preferred model of the U.S. Navy Seals. Other standard SWAT-team weaponry includes battering rams, ballistic shields, “flashbang” grenades, smoke grenades, pepper spray, and tear gas. Many squads are now ferried to raid sites by military-issue armored personnel carriers. Some units have helicopters. Others boast grenade launchers, tanks (with and without gun turrets), rappelling equipment, and bayonets (list from Radley Balko, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, 2006, p. 5).
The killing of Mr. Alegre takes place because his life is worth as little as the lives of the two men he had earlier threatened. He was careless and vile with his discharge of his gun, and so we will give him the same treatment. We will not outwait him, bluff him, trick him or cajole him into surrender, especially since we have made a commitment with SWAT to a military solution. We’ll try negotiations for six hours, and that’s it. No posting two cops outside while everyone else goes home to bed. No waiting for him to doze off, or to get hungry and have to order a pizza that we, properly garbed as a deliverypeople, bring to him. No waiting for daylight, when anxiety slackens, the mood changes, the defiance wears off. Instead, dynamic entry, a gunfight in a man’s home, and he gets what he deserves at the hands of the authorities.
Sources: “Grandmother, two children killed in police chase in Atlanta,” Jan. 31, 2016, http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/31102184/update-grandmother-two-children-killed-in-high-speed-police-chase-in-atlanta
Natalie Potts, “Police use Taser on middle school cleaning lady, mistaking her for burglar,” Feb. 1, 2016. http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/31112136/police-use-taser-on-middle-school-cleaning-lady-mistaking-her-for-burglar
Paul Leach, “Cleveland Police Department implements new community relations initiative,” Jan. 28, 2015, Chattanooga Times Free Press, timesfreepress.com.