Race Card on the table as America reels from consecutive police ‘brutality’ cases

Coming in the heels of the recent street riots that erupted over the failure to indict of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who gunned down Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who happened to be black, another grand jury voted not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a New York Police Department (NYPD) police officer accused of fatally applying a supposedly banned chokehold on Eric Garner, who, as it turns out, is also black.

Observers, however, point out that Americans really aren’t in any position to be indignant about police practices considering that the United States suffers among highest crime rates in the First World. A virtually irrevocable gun culture continues to prevail in Amercian society and the US, almost rightly so, is often described as a country of fearful affluent people thanks to many reported incidents of random acts of deadly violence often involving firearms. Many victims of such vicious and barbaric attacks are innocent American school children. Police officers are often caught in the middle having to deal with a tangle of guidelines that govern the use of deadly force when faced with situations that pose a threat to their own lives.

Police face rioters at Ferguson, Missouri

Police face rioters at Ferguson, Missouri

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But the illegality of the chokehold applied by Pantaleo on Garner leaves very little to debate. On the 17th July 2014, Eric Garner, a 350-pound, 43-year-old, 6’3″ tall, asthmatic African American man, was approached by a plainclothes police officer, Justin Damico, in front of a beauty supply store at 202 Bay Street in the Tompkinsville neighborhood in Staten Island. After telling the police officers, “I was just minding my own business. Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today!” Garner swatted their arms away, saying, “Don’t touch me, please.” He was then put in a chokehold or headlock from behind by officer Pantaleo, in order to be subdued. While Garner repeatedly stated he was not able to breathe, other officers struggled to bring him down onto the sidewalk and have him put his arms behind his back. The video shows officer Pantaleo using his hands to push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk. Garner died a few minutes later.

In comparison, the shooting of Brown by Wilson in Ferguson is far more contentious as current US law gives police wide latitude to use deadly force

Deadly force is justified if the officer reasonably believed at that moment that he or others were in imminent danger, and it doesn’t matter whether any danger actually existed.

That Washington Post report continues: “The law’s recognition of the police officer’s perspective in shootings is echoed in a favorite saying among police: ‘Rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6’.” Like Garner, Brown is also a large 300-pound man.

The appallingly fatal consequences of police officers failing to come in hard with firearms drawn and ready to fire was on display to the world in the 2010 bus hostage crisis in Manila, Philippines that claimed the lives of nine Hong Kong tourists. Assaulting personnel from the Manila Police were seen in news footage cowering underneath the bus while a lead officer clumsily hammered at the door with a sledgehammer. British security analyst Charles Shoebridge observed at the time how “[the police] acted as 99% of the population would have, which was to turn round and get out. They didn’t seem to have the necessary determination and aggression to follow the attack through.”

It is interesting that many who are admirers of countries with very low crime rates fail to recognise the cost such society’s often have to live with in order to enjoy that security. Police forces in many other countries are not as reluctant to apply deadly force in the course of their work. In other countries, laws are harsh and their application in sentencing often unreserved.

Singaporean law, for example, allows caning to be ordered for over 30 offences, including hostage-taking / kidnapping, robbery, gang robbery with murder, drug abuse, vandalism, rioting, sexual abuse (molest), and unlawful possession of weapons. Caning is also a mandatory punishment for certain offences such as rape, drug trafficking, illegal money-lending, and for visiting foreigners who overstay their visa by more than 90 days (a measure designed to deter illegal immigrant workers).

A rattan cane four feet (1.2 metres) long and half an inch (1.27 cm) thick is used for prison and judicial canings. It is at about twice as thick as the canes used in the school and military contexts. The cane is soaked in water beforehand to make it more flexible and prevent it from splitting during use. The Prisons Department denies that canes are soaked in brine, but has said that the cane is treated with antiseptic before use to prevent infection. A lighter cane is used for offenders aged under 18. Men who have been caned before described the pain they experienced as “unbearable” and “excruciating”. A recipient of 10 strokes even said, “The pain was beyond description. If there is a word stronger than excruciating, that should be the word to describe it”

While most caning offences were inherited from British law, the Vandalism Act was only introduced after independence in 1966, in what has been argued to be an attempt to suppress the activities of opposition political parties in the 1960s because their members and supporters vandalised public property with anti-PAP graffiti. Vandalism was originally prohibited by the Minor Offences Act, which made it punishable by a fine of up to S$50 or a week in jail, but did not permit caning.

Michael Fay is an American who briefly gained international attention in 1994 when he was sentenced to caning in Singapore for theft and vandalism at age 18. Although caning is a routine court sentence in Singapore, its unfamiliarity to Americans created a backlash, and Fay’s case was believed to be the first caning involving an American citizen.

The official position of the United States government was that although it recognized Singapore’s right to punish Fay within due process of law the punishment of caning was excessive for a teenager who committed a non-violent crime. The United States embassy in Singapore pointed out that the graffiti damage to the cars was not permanent, but caning would leave Fay with physical scars.

Then-U.S. President Bill Clinton called Fay’s punishment extreme and mistaken, and pressured the Singaporean government to grant Fay clemency from caning. Two dozen U.S. senators signed a letter to the Singaporean government also appealing for clemency.

The Singaporean government pointed out that Singaporeans who break the law faced the same punishments as Fay, and that Singapore’s laws had kept the city free of vandalism and violence of the kind seen in New York. The Straits Times criticized “interference” by the U.S. government and found it surprising that the President had found time to become involved, given the various foreign-policy and other crises it was facing. The number of cane strokes in Fay’s sentence was ultimately reduced from six to four after U.S. officials requested leniency.

The trouble with these recent “police brutality” cases gripping the United States is that the race card is being played copiously and, as expected, emotional responses are the rule du jour which further clouds efforts to approach these with a rational mind.

[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org articles “Caning in Singapore” and “Michael P. Fay” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site. Photo courtesy ABC.net.au.]

10 Replies to “Race Card on the table as America reels from consecutive police ‘brutality’ cases”

  1. Taking the “race card” debate out of the discussion, The US does have a law enforcement issue, namely it’s “militarization” which will reach a tipping point sooner or later IMO.

    Americans are not suppose to cower in fear, kiss the ring, and blindly submit to the “authority” of the big scawy policeman with a gun. The Bill of Rights is suppose to ensure that, but it’s clear that an “us versus them” mentality and “officer safety” above anything else rule, is a US law enforcement issue that the citizens will (eventually) not tolerate.

    I don’t think reluctance to have “guns drawn” during the Philippine bus
    hostage incident was the issue. It was stupidity and the lack of common sense that made the PNP looks like a bunch of retards.

  2. Many police in the USA are sadistic thugs who routinely beat unarmed citizens and then charge them with “resisting arrest” or “assaulting a police officer.” Their motto of “protect and serve” seems only to apply to themselves.

  3. We should also introduce : CANING, in the Philippines. We can Cane Politicians who Steal, from their Pork Barrel ; or, who Steal from the National Treasury. We include the President, and his/her Cabinets…

    Race issues have been many centuries issues in the U.S. The Police is used, as a tool of this Racist Policies. Remember, the four Civil Rights Workers, who were murdered in Mississippi…they were murdered by White Police Officers. Racial profiling is common in most States of the U.S. If you are Black, or colored. You are supposed to be not prosperous. And assumed to know nothing. Or, have never accomplished anything.

    It is a problem in the U.S. It seems, it cannot be removed…White Supremacists are still alive and well…

  4. The ‘RACE’ card being bandied about because of these killings is, hate to say it, BULL-SHIT.The NYPD would have done what it did to the big black dude, to anyone who said…”Your going to have to kill me..”, “This ends today…”, and so on.The guy had a running feud going with the NYPD and he got what he wanted, and it was nothing short of what would happen to a WHITE/HISPANIC/ASIAN/BLACK MALE/FEMALE, if they did the same exact thing.

    The black kid in Ferguson,Mo. was 6’4″ and weighed 135 KGS.,a huge guy, and evidence suggests that he was going for the cops pistol.If he had gotten it, do you think he would not have shot the cop? The guy had a bullet hole in the top of his head, the fatal shot, and the kids blood was found inside the cops car as well as on the pistol.After robbing the store with obvious blatant arrogance the guy was looking for trouble…and he sure found it.

    The heavy handed tactics of the USA’s collective police forces are extreme and getting worse, BUT IT APPLIES TO ALL BUT THE 1%, not just Black guys/gals.

  5. I would say crime is low in countries where the prevailing culture and behavior of people show respect for public space. Like Singapore and the Scandinavian countries. I would say the Philippines and America are similar as, in the first, public space is barely respected, while in the latter, people are getting more and more selfish that public space respect is declining. Really, if you have no respect for those outside of our immediate circle of friends or family, your society gets the reverse Midas touch – instead of gold, it turns to crap.

    1. LOL, you are correct again CF, true dat! BUT I must say,the USA is far from being anywhere near as bad as the Philippines when it comes to just about anything,especially the ‘public spaces’.Americans do not litter, piss in public(heavy fines for both prevent it)etc, etc…. Except corruption, it is sooo bad at the top that it is fostered even dismissed and the perpetrators are rewarded when leaving political office with high paying jobs at JP Morgan/CHASE ,Goldman Sachs etc,etc…

  6. Bring back death penalty in this f’king country. Police in the Philippines are pigs anyway, not just their obvious weight gain. And any negro/chink who tries to “keep it real” will obviously get what’s coming for him/her.

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