US cops: armed and dangerous?


SWAT Officeroriginally published by: The Guardian
16th August 2010

When Americans read British newspapers referencing “her Majesty”, “his Highness” or “Lord So-and-So”, we bask in the smug patriotic pride of knowing ours is no nation of aristocrats, but a country based on principles like equality before the law and authority granted by merit.

So we’re told. Yet we do have de facto aristocrats, whose authority over ordinary citizens rivals what English royals gave up with the Magna Carta: power to inflict pain on anyone who treats them disrespectfully, power even to kill with relatively little fuss. If mine were truly a free country, US police wouldn’t wield such immense power or employ such aggressive tactics against their own citizenry – a militarisation of our police forces that started with the war on drugs and intensified after 9/11.

Consider: can you invent a realistic scenario wherein you shoot a man dead; justify it with a story witnesses contradict; confiscate any surveillance video; claim a “glitch” makes it impossible to show the video to anyone else – all while enjoying the support of state legal apparatus?

Police in Las Vegas did that last month, after they shot Erik Scott seven times as he exited a Costco. Cops say Scott pointed a gun at them; witnesses say Scott’s licensed weapon was in a concealed holster, and five of those seven shots hit him in the back. The confiscated surveillance video might settle the question; too bad about that glitch.

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