IT’S NOTHING NEW

Back in the ‘60s, conservatives used to think they had a simple, short shut-up, an iron-clad comeback for students protesting police brutality.

“Next time you’re in trouble, call a hippie!”

There are a couple of reasons why that smug advice — popping up today in revised form — was disingenuous then and still is. For one thing… what is a hippie anyway? A mythical beast. Everyone has their own notion, like the blind men describing an elephant.

But the idea was and is, if you want to get rid of the cops, who ARE you going to call?

DEFUND THE POLICE?

A lot of people are getting used to that shorthand. But as any writer or advertising pro can tell you, if you have to explain it, you better find a better way to say it. We have enough division now without using a term that pushes buttons for too many. We need to have everyone on board to solve this critical, persistent, soul-crushing problem.

“Defund” means “to withdraw financial support,” and I don’t think many people are talking about eliminating police altogether. “Police” is just a word, anyway. We need to redefine it, and by doing so address the defects.

If we want to end the disproportionate killing of people of color by police, and the devastating fear that wreaks on the daily lives of such a large number of Americans, we need to completely rethink the role of policing and who does what, and reallocate funds wisely.

If there is an armed robbery, murder, rape, riot, assault, a hostage situation, you want someone trained and equipped to handle that sort of thing. But we now have our police handling situations that would be better addressed by a social worker or medical professional, situations that too often spiral out of control when an armed enforcer intervenes. (Especially those enforcers with prejudices and tendencies toward violence. We definitely need to reform recruiting and training.)

CODE OF SILENCE

In these last few months when so much has come under a microscope, I have drastically revised my own estimate of how many cops are bad, to — a lot. Way, way too many. And if you think that doesn’t apply in Santa Monica, you may be fooling yourself. (More on this later.)

That’s not to say all cops are bad, or even most. But look at what we’ve learned from the horrifying number of police killings mounting up. How many of those officers had previous instances of brutality, but no consequences, thus reinforcing the temptation to use deadly force?

Who can ever forget the calmly defiant look on the face of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin as he stared into the cameras recording his suffocation of a prone, handcuffed George Floyd, putting his full body weight on Floyd’s neck for 8:46. Chauvin had 18 conduct complaints on his record, fired his gun at suspects twice previously, one of whom died. He was involved in a car chase that resulted in the deaths of three innocent people in another car. Only two of the 18 complaints resulted in … reprimands.

Of the three officers who assisted Chauvin in executing Floyd, two were very new on the force and certainly would have had difficulty telling the veterans in charge to stand down, but the other officer, Tou Thao, seen standing guard for Chauvin, has six complaints, one still open — no disciplinary action.

The very real code of silence guarantees police officers who “snitch” on another, even a murderer, will be completely ostracized for the rest of their career. It’s powerful, toxic, and needs to change. So do police chiefs who investigate something for so long it becomes irrelevant, and police unions who defend every single action by an officer.

BAD APPLES?

— just a few are to blame, they’re the exception… you always hear that. I used to buy in somewhat. But then when Buffalo police officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski were captured on video a month ago shoving to the pavement a 75-year-old peaceful protestor, leaving him there bleeding and unconscious, with a fractured skull, and emerged from their hearing the next day to a cheering crowd of fellow officers and firemen, and all 57 police officers on Buffalo’s Emergency Response Team left that special unit in support of the two officers — all 57 — well, that’s a lot of bad apples. Maybe it’s a bad police force.

When Atlanta officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with murder a week later for shooting Rayshard Brooks in the back as he ran away from an arrest attempt, for intoxication and falling asleep in his car in a fast food restaurant line, the police chief immediately resigned, but Atlanta police staged a “sick-out” and walk out by 170 officers, in support of Rolfe, and in three out of six zones in the city, officers did not respond to calls. That’s hardly protect and serve, and a lot of “bad apples” too.

MANY THINK SANTA MONICA

Isn’t in those leagues, It isn’t, so far, but we still have work to do. Are we doing it?

Last week I wrote, “I can’t recall… an incident of brutality from our police force.” There was that case four years ago of Justin Palmer being cited for charging his electric car in Virginia Park, allegedly after closing time. (There were others using the park at that time but Palmer, a black man, was singled out.) Stating to officers he had done nothing wrong, Palmer refused to provide his ID for a citation, and at that point was wrestled to the ground, knocked unconscious and pepper sprayed.

I remembered this event but forgot about the unnecessary physical assault, so did not mention it. Palmer was awarded $1M+. Guess who had to cover that award?

Black Lives Matter art and slogans painted on the plywood used to cover store windows after the looting here May 31, were white-washed over in the night.

And if you’re still skeptical that we have serious problems with racism here in “progressive, diverse” SM, just go read a dozen Instagram posts in Dear Samohi. I dare you not to cry.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com