I am a John Oliver fan. His show is entertaining and consistently offers well-researched content that is undoubtedly biased, yet as close to impartial as you can find. I have seen many brilliant segments in the last 6 years from him and his crew, but this piece below is one that they knocked out of the park. Brilliant, well-delivered, carefully researched and on point.
We are all busy and there is so much news floating around that most of us don’t have either time or stomach to digest it. Yet, on important issues around us such as police brutality, we must be informed. Hence, do yourself a favor and watch this clip. It’s worth 30 minutes of your time. The last couple of minutes is both powerful and heartbreaking. You can see John almost close to tears and I am sure he isn’t the only one.
While I am against looting and destruction of properties, especially those owned by hard-working folks who haven’t done a thing wrong, I support the movement and I can see, not understand, where they are coming from. When law enforces who are supposed to protect citizens pose a threat to black people and the judicial system isn’t exactly behind the threatened, what exactly can they do? When the social contract they signed is repeatedly and mercilessly broken, what else can hold them back?
There is also one other reason why I like the mix of journalism and comedy like the clip above. While the cable news media do try to be as precise and honest in their reporting, they often use language, photos and videos to create headlines that intend to grab attention by stirring emotions. Watching a lot of cable news isn’t healthy to anyone’s mind. At least, content like John Oliver’s segments carries some humor that makes the bitter pill easier to swallow.
Our analysis finds that each additional use of force policy was associated with a 15% reduction in killings for the average police department. Since the average police department had already implemented three of these policies, implementing all eight use of force restrictions would be associated with a 54% reduction in killings for the average police department. Even after taking into account the number of arrests made, assaults on officers, and community demographics, police departments with all eight of these use of force policies implemented would kill 72% fewer people than departments that have none of these policies in place
As for policy, our results suggest that implementing the EO to recall military equipment should result in less violent behavior and subsequently, fewer killings by LEAs. Taken together with work that shows militarization actually leads to more violence against police (Carriere, 2016; Wickes, 2015), the present study suggests demilitarization may secure overall community safety.
How Supreme Court puts its thumb on the scale to seemingly savor the police
Qualified immunity is a legal protection granted by Supreme Court to shield government employees from frivolous lawsuits. In the case of the police which can exercise lethal forces upon citizens, the implications of qualified immunity can be profound. While it’s legitimate to offer police officers latitude in doing their job, qualified immunity can also be overused as a protection from misdemeanors. In this article, Reuters looked into how Supreme Court sided with the police in case involving use of excessive force. I highly recommend that you read the article. Some highlights that I think are important are as follows
In a dissent to a 2018 ruling, Sotomayor, joined by fellow liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote that the majority’s decision favoring the cops tells police that “they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.”
In that case, Kisela v. Hughes, the justices threw out a lower court’s ruling that denied immunity to a Tucson, Arizona, cop who shot a mentally ill woman four times as she walked down her driveway while holding a large kitchen knife.
A year earlier, Sotomayor in another dissent called out her fellow justices for a “disturbing trend” of favoring police. “We have not hesitated to summarily reverse courts for wrongly denying officers the protection of qualified immunity,” Sotomayor wrote, citing several recent rulings. “But we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity.”
The main challenge for plaintiffs in excessive force cases is to show that police behavior violated a “clearly established” precedent. The Supreme Court has continually reinforced a narrow definition of “clearly established,” requiring lower courts to accept as precedent only cases that have detailed circumstances very similar to the case they are weighing.
In February, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, Ohio, granted immunity to an officer who shot and wounded a 14-year-old boy in the shoulder after the boy dropped a BB gun and raised his hands. The court rejected as a precedent a 2011 case in which an officer shot and killed a man as he began lowering a shotgun. The difference between the incidents was too great, the court determined, because the boy had first drawn the BB gun from his waistband before dropping it.
In other recent cases, courts have sided with police because of the difference between subduing a woman for walking away from an officer, and subduing a woman for refusing to end a phone call; between shooting at a dog and instead hitting a child, and shooting at a truck and hitting a passenger; and between unleashing a police dog to bite a motionless suspect in a bushy ravine, and unleashing a police dog to bite a compliant suspect in a canal in the woods.
The Supreme Court in 2009 raised the bar even higher for plaintiffs to overcome qualified immunity. In Pearson v. Callahan, it gave judges the option to simply ignore the question of whether a cop used excessive force and instead focus solely on whether the conduct was clearly established as unlawful.
By allowing judges to consider only the question of clearly established law in excessive force cases, the Supreme Court created a closed loop in which “the case law gets frozen,” said lawyer Matt Farmer, who represented Lewis’s family.
I am not sure I know of situations where the odds are stacked against citizens more. Citizens, in general, do not possess weapons or resources to self-defend against authority which, ironically, is supposed to protect citizens in the first place. In cases where abuse of power is apparent, the laws, as you already see, are not on citizens’ side, either. It’s obviously a disturbing phenomenon to witness. One must wonder whether this qualified immunity and the Supreme Court’s tendency to rule in favor of the police contributes to the abuse of power and excessive use of force.
Vote. Vote. Vote. On every level.
Former President Obama penned a thoughtful blog post detailing his opinion on how the country can move forward from the current crisis. You can read it here
Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobediencethat the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices— and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.
Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.
So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.
The former President said it better than I think I can. So, vote whenever you can because our life depends on your votes a lot. It’s the most powerful weapon you can have in a democracy. What I really hate is that some folks relinquish their voting duty because their “guy or gal” isn’t a candidate or there is only one or two issues that they disagree with their candidate.
Vote for democracy, not partisanship
A study published on Cambridge Press examined whether Americans were willing to trade democracy for partisanship in voting.
…in states and districts where one party enjoys a significant electoral advantage, politicians from the majority party may be effectively insulated from an electoral punishment for violating democratic principles. To get a sense of the real-world relevance of this implication, consider that in 2016 only 5.1% of US House districts were won by a margin of less than 6.9%—the smallest margin that Table 4 implies is necessary for violations of democratic principles to be electorally self-defeating. That share of districts was still only 15.2% in 2018. Put bluntly, our estimates suggest that in the vast majority of U.S. House districts, a majority-party candidate could openly violate one of the democratic principles we examined and nonetheless get away with it.
Our analysis of a candidate-choice experiment as well as a natural experiment consistently found that only a small fraction of Americans prioritize democratic principles in their electoral choices when doing so goes against their partisan identification or favorite policies. We proposed that this is the consequence of two mechanisms: (i) voters are willing to trade off democratic principles for partisan ends and (ii) voters employ a partisan “double standard” when punishing candidates who violate democratic principles. These tendencies were exacerbated by several types of polarization, including intense partisanship, extreme policy preferences, and divergence in candidate platforms. Put simply, polarization undermines the public’s ability to serve as a democratic check.
We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for our understanding of democratic stability in the United States and the rest of the world. We saw that roughly 10–13% of our respondents—depending on the type of contests considered—value democracy enough to punish otherwise favored candidates for violating democratic principles by voting against them
What does that mean? In my opinion, if voters were more willing to cross the partisanship line and vote for a person of a different party, it means that the partisanship and the divide within the country would be less severe. Lawmakers would be forced to be more accountable and to offer bipartisan legislations. The world is too diverse and lively for any of us to stubbornly stick to a rigid ideology. If one party is too egregious and the other party’s candidate shares more values with you, you should vote on shared human values, not partisan ideologies or “stick it to somebody else”.
In this entry, I want to provide you with what I have encountered so far during the last several days of absolute madness and chaos. My intention is to offer evidence of some perspectives that are floating around so that you can make your own judgement
First and foremost, you may want to look at the video of George Floyd being arrested and killed by four policemen. It’s tragic and horrifying, but it shows the worst of the abuse of power from the police. Here is another incident when they kicked a powerless girl
Protesters tried to protect properties from looting
There are real peaceful protests, not just the violent ones that seem to attract more attention
There is a population among police who decided to join the protest
There are white people who compassionately and bravely stepped up to help their black brothers and sisters
There are also legitimate and terrible looters
There are also cooler heads
In the process, the police attacked the press and the First Amendment Right
I am sure there are other incidents that back up each of these perspectives or bring out new vantage points from which you can look at this whole chaos. These are multiple separate issues, each of which deserves its own investigation, national discussion and dramatic overhaul of what is currently in place. However, they are currently lumped into one confusing mess to muddy the waters. You can absolutely call for justice for George Floyd and other victims, and demand racial equality while absolutely condemning the looting that some terrible individuals carried out. The two are mutually exclusive. Just like you can appreciate the job of the police and justly call out the brutality whose frequency is so high that you can’t call it “a few bad apples” any more. Like a friend of mine from Belgium said, no one ever said this about plane crashes: well it crashed, but it’s one bad apple. Indeed, no one ever.
I hope these are helpful to you while you are processing the whole chaos unfolding in front of us.