Thursday, 29 October 2009

When Standing Armies Cop a Plea

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Becky AkersLet’s pretend for a moment that the cops are telling the truth and that Darren Johnson, 43, owner of a barber shop, a Harley Davidson, and – according to police – some cocaine, ran not only a stop sign but a red light as well on his motorcycle. The officers who pulled him over also claim that he “became increasingly agitated and aggressive and struck one of them a week ago Monday in San Bernardino, California. Something in Mr. Johnson’s alleged infraction or reaction apparently suspended the rules of fair play, simple decency, and the Constitution, because the two cops ganged up against him. One held him on the ground while the other beat him with a baton “18 to 19 times.”

Fortunately, a citizen taped this attack with his cell phone, as folks across the country increasingly do when police brutalize their prey. And so we add Mr. Johnson’s torture to the warehouse of evidence proving that cops are increasingly thuggish (indeed, we have to leave neither the state of California nor the weapon of choice for confirmation), departments of them are tyrannical, and freedom flourishes only when they don’t.

Meanwhile, just about everything Mr. Johnson’s assailants assert is disputed. His wife – whose marriage may be less than idyllic since her husband’s only arrest prior to this incident came 18 months ago for a “domestic dispute” – nevertheless dismisses the idea that her spouse had any coke on him. Indeed, she pretty much dismisses the cops’ entire version of events: “There is no reason he would strike a cop,” she told a local reporter. Not that he didn’t have cause to, we might add.

The gentleman who filmed the savagery also casts doubt on Mr. Johnson’s supposed “agitat[ion] and aggress[ion]”: “[Brandon] Piddington told KTLA[-TV, Los Angeles] that … he looked away for a few seconds, but never saw Johnson hit any of the officers. ‘He seemed very calm, he was standing several feet away from his motorcycle. He was driving a Harley and they were searching him. Officer had one of his arms up, the other one had control of his other arm,’ Piddington said.”

The assault’s aftermath doesn’t strengthen the cops’ credibility, either. For two days, they neither booked nor charged Mr. Johnson while denying him access to a lawyer and telephone. Finally, Mr. Johnson managed to call his wife from Loma Linda University Medical Center. He told her “that he suffered a compound fracture to his hand, and has stitches to both legs and his head, among other injuries.” Those 48 hours had the lady frantically “’trying…to find out where he is,’ said Gary Wenkle Smith, the San Bernardino attorney representing Johnson's wife, Landra Santana. ‘The family has been in a state of shock because they know he was hurt but they didn't know the severity of his injuries.’”

Indeed, victims of San Bernardino’s Finest so often disappear that even the mainstream Sun, part of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, noted that this “case bears eerie similarities to two other cases in which suspects were allegedly hidden by San Bernardino police officers without being properly booked or charged, said Smith, the family's lawyer. Earlier this year, Chief [of Police Keith] Kilmer hired an outside private investigator to probe long-standing claims that several officers have been illegally keeping suspects ‘on ice.’"

You might think that squarely catching such egregious evil on tape dictates immediate suspension of the dynamic duo and their arrest for assault at the minimum. You would be wrong. “The San Bernardino Police Department said the incident is under investigation.” Of course: unions protect these ruffians. The SBPD has also “refused to discuss whether the beating was appropriate....”

Appropriate? The SBPD isn’t absolutely and vehemently denouncing it outright? Do our rulers actually believe that running a red light or even taking a swing at a cop justifies a caning so severe it breaks a man’s hand and inflicts wounds requiring stitches?

Both Mr. Johnson and the cop trouncing him are black. That should put to rest once and for all the demagogues’ canard that “police brutality” is a function of racism. Rather, it results from empowering fallen, sinful men over their fellows, whether the assailants and their victims are black, white, green, orange, or striped.

Which is one reason the Founding Fathers feared a standing army. Police forces as we know them did not curse the world until the mid-nineteenth century; instead, regular Army units patrolled such restless cities as Boston in the late 1760’s. Among their duties were two that remain pillars of policing: stealing for the State (the Redcoats infesting Boston sniffed out smuggled – ie, untaxed – goods, just as cops today issue traffic tickets and other citations) and quelling resistance (a Massacre one cold night in March 1770; the beating of Mr. Johnson and countless others 239 years later).

So the Founders understood first-hand that arming men against their neighbors on government’s behalf threatens liberty. Indeed, they listed it among George III’s crimes in the Declaration of Independence: “He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power. … [He’s also] Quarter[ed] large bodies of armed troops among us: [and] protect[ed] them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.…”

The best bulwark against so dangerous a menace is the militia, i.e., citizens packing more firepower than Leviathan’s bullies, and far outnumbering them, too. "What, sir, is the use of a militia?” Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts rhetorically asked. “It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty." No wonder the Constitution prohibits a standing army – even if the government slyly changes the army’s name to “police”: “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress … keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace…” The modern idea that armed cops stalk among a disarmed or, at best, minimally armed populace would have sickened the Founders. They’d immediately abolish both police forces and the laws stripping citizens of their right to defend themselves, or, as the State puts it, to “resist arrest.”

Why haven’t we?

Becky Akers, an expert on the American Revolution, writes frequently about issues related to security and privacy. Her articles and columns have been published by, The Freeman, Military History Magazine, American History Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Post, and other publications.

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