Does law enforcement believe their own defense?

Deborah Danner
Deborah Danner, a mentally disable senior citizen, was killed by Sergeant Hugh Barry because he said she was going to swing a bat at him. At a Murphy Institute forum on Law Enforcement Unionism, former NYPD officer and academy instructor Eugene O’Donnell said, “That woman needed a doctor; the doctor wasn’t there. She needed a social worker; the social worker wasn’t there. She needed EMS; the EMS wasn’t there. The cops were the only people to be there. Who’s worse to send to the case of an emotionally disturbed person than law enforcement?” For more; bit.do/lawenforcement (Handout)

By Gabe Falsetta

Another tragic NYPD killing of an African American – this time, an elder with a history of mental illness – has brought Sergeants Benevolent Association President, Ed Mullins to once again give his interpretation of the shooter’s innocence after the officer was indicted on murder charges May 31st. According to the June 9 edition of the Chief-Leader, “it was the first time a city cop was charged with murder” since the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo.

You see, according to Mr. Mullins, Sergeant Hugh Barry was justified in killing 69-year-old Deborah Danner, because Sergeant Barry said she was going to swing a bat at him. The fact that sergeant Barry did not follow police procedure when confronting a senior citizen with mental illness doesn’t seem to matter to Sergeant Mullins.

We have seen Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch also cast logic and police procedure aside. A citizen’s video showed officer Pantaleo taking down and killing Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold three years ago for no apparent reason, except that he could. Lynch held Garner responsible for “resisting arrest,” and called Pantaleo a “model” police officer.

The question to be asked here is do these men really believe the defenses they put forward? Or are they protecting their jobs by any means necessary, including defending the indefensible?

I don’t know the answer – only they do. What I do know is that these police officers are workers in a system that has no conscience, no empathy for human beings. It is a system that has outlived its time. When that system fails to provide sustainable jobs, quality education, housing, healthcare or nutrition especially in oppressed communities, it also affects the working lives of police in those neighborhoods, and everyone suffers – some more violently than others. As capitalism continues to collapse, it becomes more and more difficult for the people here in the U.S. and around the world to live decent secure lives.

Whether it be the deaths of children who fall through the cracks of the Administration of Children’s Services, or the adults responsible for them who are also falling through the fragile social net and taking out their rage upon the children who are in their “care,” insecurity is the only thing capitalism is able to share profitably.

The capitalist system is about how much profit can be made and by any means necessary; never-ending wars, destruction of the environment, greater and greater exploitation of those who work. Whether on production lines or at an office desk, all are competing on a global scale as robots are used to undermine unions and concentrate corporate control. With social benefits and public investments under attack, police are called on to deal with the resulting social unrest.

We can do better. The union presidents should take note of what the Dallas police chief David Brown is trying to do to ease the tensions between police and community. “There’s a lot of context, and a historical perspective, when it relates to police-community relationships, particularly in [racially and nationally oppressed] communities,” he says. “And some of the distrust has been earned by our department over the years.”

Brown says that police departments must break down the barriers of distrust that often divide law enforcement and community members (bit.do/chiefbrown), which brings me back to the situation for the police officers. Police are expected to function with empathy towards the citizenry in the neighborhoods that they work in, even when brought in from other areas.

The owning class – the 1% – has managed over the years to keep us divided by blurring the class struggle in this country with vague income-based categories: lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class. This is on top of the greatest division: racial segregation and discrimination.

The lack of class-consciousness in the U.S. is a huge undertaking; we won’t attempt to delve into all the ramifications here. What we want to try to convey to our fellow citizens is the challenge to overcome this system that encourages class collaboration. The workforce is divided by hiring one section of the working class to oppress another section while the rich get richer. In the meantime, unemployment continues to rise due to automation, neglect of infrastructure building, and outsourcing. More is being produced than working people can buy, and earth’s resources are wasted.

So, what can we do to end these terrible unjustified killings of our brothers and sisters? As I said earlier, I don’t know if these union officials believe their defenses or not, what I do know is that some deep soul searching must take place in the hearts and minds of those who are supposed to serve and protect the citizenry who pay them.

If they don’t, more work needs to be done to elect union leaders that will fight for the interests of police as workers, rather than defending the rights of the rich to grind them in their machine.

(More on Law Enforcement Unionism and the Deborah Danner case at bit.do/lawenforcement)

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