5 Recent Trends That Make It Hard to Trust Police (Part 2)
The police sure are generating some terrifying news stories these days, are they not? I covered this phenomenon once already back in November, but the recent shooting of a Tosh.0 production assistant in Los Angeles compelled me to look into it again, and sure enough, shit is still crazy. Police officers and their increasingly criminal antics are the topic of discussion in this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
Coincidentally, that's also the topic of this very column. Here are five recent trends that make it hard to trust the police.
They Still Lack Discretion When Shooting
If there's any upside to the fact that the police are still shooting first and gathering basic information about the situation at hand much later, it's that they're using fewer bullets these days. You at least stand a puncher's chance of surviving if you're up against only a bullet or two, as opposed to 40 or 50.
Unfortunately, those odds didn't fall in favor of the two most recent additions to the ever-expanding database of questionable cop killings.
The last place I can put a picture with a funny caption for at least the next couple paragraphs without seeming like a total jerk.
In the case of John Winkler, the Tosh.0 production assistant mentioned earlier, he was hit with one shot. Sadly, that's all it takes sometimes. When police finally entered the residence they'd been called to investigate, they found the suspect who prompted the call in the first place choking another victim. He'd previously attacked Winkler, who was already bleeding profusely (and noticeably) when police shot him.
A similarly depressing story happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently. Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old former Florida A&M University football player, survived what Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe would later describe as a "severe" car accident.
The wreckage was so bad that Ferrell had to climb through the back window to escape. Any survivor's relief he experienced was short-lived, though. Upon freeing himself from the crash, Ferrell made his way to the nearest house and began "banging on the door viciously," according to the woman who answered. She at first thought it was her husband coming home late from work. It was 2:30 a.m.
The husband probably answered more questions than the police that day.
Upon realizing that wasn't the case, the woman immediately slammed the door. Afraid she was being robbed, she called 911. When police arrived, they surrounded Ferrell. Police claim that at this point Farrell charged at them, and, you know, maybe he did. A person fresh off of extracting himself from a potentially deadly car crash can be forgiven if he's a little loopy or whatever.
Don't these wacky pictures make it seem like these aren't the saddest stories ever?!?!?
We'll never know what he was thinking, though, because almost as soon as he charged, he was shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick. Authorities have since confirmed that, to their knowledge, Ferrell was not attempting to burglarize the house he went to for help and no threats were ever exchanged between anyone at the scene.
The shooting was initially determined to be lawful, but that decision was later overturned. Kerrick was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter. That certainly sounds like a positive development, but I have a feeling justice seekers probably shouldn't get too excited just yet. We'll talk about that a lot more at the end of this article. In the meantime, let's talk about a different kind of law enforcement overkill.
They're Using SWAT Tactics for Everything Now
What kind of scene would you picture if someone told you a SWAT team was used to break up a gambling ring? It would have to be some sort of high-level operation that included the use of several weapons to fend off potential robbers, right? Maybe a dog-fighting stadium of some sort? No matter what form your ideal law enforcement intervention takes, it's likely that no part of it involves teams of heavily armed (and armored) cops raiding your weekly poker game.
The only crime here is that fucking visor.
So imagine the surprise and eventual horror 72-year-old Aaron Awtry of Baltimore County, Maryland, must have felt when a SWAT team started breaking down his door to do that very thing. Actually, the part where the police showed up wasn't unusual at all. His home had been "raided" several times because of illegal gambling. The difference is that, in those previous public safety missions, the police just knocked on Awtry's door, waited for an answer, and gave everyone $100 tickets.
Given the extreme change in tactics, Awtry should be forgiven for mistakenly believing that, instead of "peace officers" looking to collect ticket money, he had a band of criminals at his door. After all, in addition to being raided by police several times previously, Awtry had also been robbed several times previously.
"Police! Open up!"
So, doing what a person defending their goods from crooks is often inclined to do in that situation, Awtry grabbed a gun and started shooting. The police shot back. When a shot hit Awtry and knocked him back into the kitchen, where his fellow gamblers were assembled, they reported hearing him ask, "Why didn't you tell me it was the cops?" as he fell. Good news, though! Aaron Awtry survived his injuries! Also, bad news! Promptly upon recovering, Aaron Awtry was charged with attempted murder.
Still, alive is alive, and not everyone who's found themselves on the business end of an unnecessarily intense gambling arrest has been so lucky. Take the unspeakably unnerving case of 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi. A Fairfax County, Virginia, detective named David Baucum overheard Culosi placing a small bet on a Washington Redskins game with a few friends at a local bar. Sensing an opportunity to be a massive asshole, David Baucum swung into action.
Baucum connived his way into being friends with Culosi for the sole purpose of talking him into raising the stakes on his bets, which he did, to the tune of more than $2,000 in a single day at one point. Unfortunately, that's the threshold a gambler has to reach to fall afoul of the law.
The final meeting between cop and prey was arranged under the guise of Baucum collecting winnings from Culosi. When the unsuspecting "criminal" came outside, a waiting SWAT team pounced. For some reason, during the chaos, Detective Deval Bullock started shooting. A single bullet pierced Culosi's heart. His last words were for the friend who set him up: "Dude, what are you doing?"
"Just doing my job, sir."
Leave it to Florida to make their inappropriate use of SWAT tactics the weirdest of all. Orange County sheriff's deputies went into "citywide raid" mode on, you guessed it ... black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops? The raids were supposed to lead to drug arrests. The results? Of the 37 arrests, a full 34 of them were issued for "barbering without a license."
So, I take it back. I guess that last example isn't so bad after all.
They Become Drunken Menaces When Off Duty
Brittany Ball, a 23-year-old soldier based at Fort Jackson, was having a bad night. She was at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Richland County, South Carolina. Wait, it gets worse! As if that wasn't bad enough, she was getting hit on by some creep named Allen Derrick. She blew him off, which is exactly where the story should have ended. Of course, it wouldn't be on this list if that was the case. As you've probably surmised by now, Allen Derrick was no garden-variety creep. Allen Derrick was a creepy cop.
Rather than taking his rejection like a grown-up, Derrick went to his car, grabbed his gun and badge, and returned to arrest Ball for violating that longstanding law about how if a cop at a shitty wing place slobbers come-ons in your direction, you immediately have to fuck him.
Luckily, Allen Derrick was just drunk enough to think that making this awful decision an official one would be a good idea. When other officers showed up to assist with his hot new collar, they quickly realized who the real criminal was. The restraints were immediately removed from Ball and placed on Allen Derrick, where they belonged.
Since we're talking about cops being terrible to women, we might as well get a story about them endangering the shit out of some kids in here as well, I suppose. Coming right up! Have a look at the story of Dejay Barber, 44, and Matthew Rincon, 24. Both men were camping ...
That's their first mistake.
... separately when, somehow, they settled on making the exact same dick move at the exact same time. They were drunk, naturally, when a disagreement about loud music erupted, and because there is literally no other available resolution to that kind of problem, they fell back on the time-honored tradition of indiscriminately firing guns into the air, both men completely unaware that the other was a cop. We can count our lucky stars that none of those bullets came to rest inside the skull of a nearby child, and then count a few more, because Barber and Rincon were both relieved of their jobs as a result of their firearm peacocking.
No story even comes close to that of Kyle McCartin, though. He and his partner stumbled into a convenience store dressed like body doubles from the set of Magic Mike and immediately turned it into the scene of a mashup between that cinematic classic and another Channing Tatum vehicle, the shockingly well-made 21 Jump Street.
For apparently nothing more than shits and giggles, McCartin pulled his gun on the cashier and began waving it at him nonchalantly before finally paying for his purchase like a regular person. You can tell he thinks he's being funny. You can also tell he's a massive asshole.
They Operate Intricate Crime Rings
Sure, police corruption is nothing new, but the tried-and-true methods we've long associated with cops looking to pick up some illicit cash on the side, like confiscating drugs and reselling them, must be growing tiresome, because goddamn are they getting creative with their crime on the side these days.
Case in point: The rural California farm community of King City must have found itself teetering on the brink of having no police force at all when six officers, including the former police chief and his acting replacement, were arrested after a scheme came to light in which they would impound the cars of impoverished Latinos, to the tune of more than 200 vehicles, and then sell them to chop shops (you know, the kind they should be raiding and shutting down) when the owners found themselves unable to pay the towing fees. Actually, I'm being a bit dramatic here. They didn't sell every car. Sometimes they'd just keep the cars for themselves.
I guess I understand that part.
Once again, let's hear it for Florida, or "Japan of the United States" (if we're talking about areas that produce bizarre news stories). A great example of this is the Florida town of Hampton. Lawmakers have moved to dissolve the town, which is affectionately known as "speed trap city" by its enemies.
So speeding is illegal, but that mustache isn't?
See, a 1,260-foot stretch of busy highway runs through Hampton, and the law enforcement pros who literally run the town have turned that tiny corner of America's interstate system into one of the most notorious speed traps in the country. There's a cop for every 25 people in town, which blows the teacher-to-student ratio at almost any school these days completely out of the water, if you're looking for a comparison to drive home how unnecessarily heinous the situation in Hampton really is. They built that massive police force by way of stationing officers in lawn chairs at the side of the small sliver of road they occupy and ticketing as many people as possible. The profits from those tickets were used to assemble Hampton's army.
Even then, none of that is technically illegal, of course, but when an audit of the town's books revealed that a lot of that taxpayer money just up and vanished (possibly as much as $1 million), questions were asked, and now Hampton may one day be no more. Darn.
On the bright side, at least all of the perpetrators were arrested. That has to count for something, right? Yeah, probably not, because ...
They're Impossible to Prosecute
"Impossible" might be too strong of a word, but it certainly isn't easy. For example, surely you remember the Rodney King beating. Outrage over the acquittal of the officers involved in that crime was so massive, it sparked the rarest kind of Los Angeles riot -- the kind that doesn't involve the Lakers winning a championship.
As tragic as that incident and the destruction it eventually led to may be, it's equally tragic that the exact same fucking thing just happened, and this time almost no one gives a shit. Two former Fullerton, California, police officers were acquitted in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man.
Why is that such an outrage? Simple: Because the beating was caught on tape, and if that tape is not the most obvious proof of guilt produced in any courtroom ever, I would be flabbergasted.
In the video, you can hear one of the exonerated cops, Manuel Ramos, saying, "You see my fists? They're getting ready to fuck you up." A few moments later, Thomas is hit with a baton and falls to the ground, at which point the cops pile on. The beating is severe and last for several minutes. Another officer hits Thomas with a Taser gun. By the end of the attack, the victim can be heard pleading, "Help me, Dad." He died in a hospital five days later. His cause of death was listed as head trauma. He didn't get that head trauma from not getting savagely beaten, that's for fucking sure.
Ah, but these two incidents happened decades apart; is that really worthy of being called a trend? Yes, it is. The police beating a man to death (or close to it) with video cameras rolling the entire time only to later be acquitted as if that evidence doesn't exist at all is the kind of thing that should never happen. Or, if it does, it should happen with the same frequency as an extinction-level asteroid smashing into the face of Earth.
Two times is two times too many, and if I wasn't way too depressed by this story to do a little more digging, I'm sure I'd turn up several more comparable travesties. If I had to venture a guess as to why minorities and poor people alike seem to hate the police with equal fervor, this story would be that guess.
Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should listen to on Soundcloud and a live stand-up comedy show of the same name that you should come see sometime if you're in the Los Angeles area. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.