'No Hesitation'by William Norman Grigg
You know the score... You’re not a cop, you’re little people! - LAPD Captain Harry Bryant to retired “Blade Runner” Rick Deckard, who was reluctant to resume his career as a state-licensed killer.
Barack Obama’s advertised purpose in visiting Minneapolis on February 4 was to combat the scourge of gun violence. The substantive purpose of his visit was to promote a state monopoly on gun violence, exercised by people who are trained and authorized to kill pregnant women, children, and the elderly.
If the traffic is favorable, it would take about fifteen minutes to drive from the Special Operations Center in downtown Minneapolis – the site of Obama’s photo op with hundreds of area police -- to the home office of Law Enforcement Targets, Inc., in nearby Blaine. The company, a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security, produces training targets that are “designed to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios with subjects that are not the norm during training,” according to its promotional literature.
Among the training targets are images depicting “non-traditional threats,” such as pregnant women, children, and grandmotherly women – in other words, “Little People” – carrying guns.
The company’s marketing team explains that the “non-traditional targets“ were created at the request of police officers and trainers, who are seeking to dis-inhibit the killing instincts of police “when deadly force is required on subjects with atypical age, frailty or condition…. This hesitation time may be only seconds but that is not acceptable when officers are losing their lives in these same situations…. If that hesitation time can be cut down due to range experience, the officer and the community are better served.”
That is to say, it can condition them to overcome the natural and indispensable reluctance to kill the innocent and helpless. This is summarized in the company’s sales slogan: “No more hesitation.”
A few years ago, the media experienced a brief but acute spasm of indignation over the fact that pictures of Obama were being used as targets at arcade games. This was done to capitalize on a commendable impulse – unfettered contempt for a corrupt official who kills and impoverishes others under the color of “authority” – that had curdled into simple rancor. The paying customers at that shooting gallery, however, had not been indoctrinated in the belief that they had social license to engage in discretionary killing, nor were they being conditioned to kill others without hesitation.
According to Law Enforcement Targets, Inc., its training materials are used by several federal agencies, every branch of the military, and “thousands of law enforcement agencies at the municipal, county, and state levels.” Its materials were almost certainly used to train some of the officers assembled at the Special Operations Center for Obama’s February 4 photo-op. It’s likely that company officials had been invited, as well.
That fact didn’t perturb the Secret Service as it made security arrangements for the photo-op. However, the presidential security detail should have taken alarm over the fact that the assembly included the hyper-violent men who shot and killed Obama – not the politician, the six-month-old Pitbull puppy – three years ago.
On July 9, 2009, a ten-officer Minneapolis SWAT team attacked the home of Darrell and Cymonne Williams. The no-knock raid – which violated the terms of the search warrant – was staged to arrest Cymonne’s adult son, Tierre Caldwell, who was a suspect in a shooting. At the time of the raid the police knew that Caldwell lived at a different address.
With weapons drawn and wearing standard Stormtrooper attire, the police broke down the front door and barged into the home. Reacting to the commotion, Obama (the puppy) barged downstairs with Cymonne following behind him. Before she could clearly see the intruders, they had already shot and killed the dog. She retreated back up the stairs in terror, passing her alarmed husband, who had settled down for an afternoon nap after finishing work. Darrell was clad only in his underwear when he confronted the invaders.
“What the hell are you doing in my house?” he demanded. One of the officers yelled at him to get down. With his hands raised, Darrell reiterated his question. By way of reply, Sgt. Mark Sletta committed an act of aggravated assault by hitting Darrel in the face with the butt of his assault rifle. As the victim hit the floor, Officer Mark Durand kicked him repeatedly in the torso while two others zip-cuffed him. Two other officers pitched in by stomping on the prone and helpless man. The intruders briefly searched the home and, failing to find the subject of the arrest warrant, left with neither an explanation nor an apology.
Darrell Williams was taken to the hospital to be treated for severe trauma to his right eye, bruised ribs, and other injuries. The criminal violence inflicted on him by the armed tax-feeders who invaded his home caused Darrell to miss eight days of productive work.
After the Williams family filed a lawsuit against the department, the perpetrators invoked the familiar claim of “qualified immunity.” The US District Court for Minnesota, examining the incident with solicitous care for the privileges of the state’s punitive priesthood, ruled that the sacred imperative of “officer safety” justified the killing of Obama (the dog), the use of a rifle to attack Darrell Williams, and the act of stomping on his head once he was prone, handcuffed, and bleeding.
For reasons not clear to the rational mind, the same court that approved of those acts of violence and property destruction said that Officer Durand’s act of kicking Williams in the ribs was not covered by “qualified immunity.” It’s possible that this was done to provide the family with a single actionable claim. This, in turn, gave the city an opportunity to negotiate a paltry civil settlement in order to make the case go away. The Williams family eventually received $75,000 from the City of Minneapolis.
Minneapolis taxpayers were forced to underwrite a much bigger settlement with Rickia Russell, a young woman who suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to her legs during a SWAT raid on her boyfriend’s apartment.
On February 16, 2010, Russell and her boyfriend were eating a late dinner when a SWAT team broke down the door to the apartment. One of the raiders looked into Russell’s eyes before throwing a flash-bang grenade directly at her.
“Get on the ground!” grunted one of the stormtroopers as more than a dozen others swarmed into the room. While she was being zip-cuffed, Williams complained that her legs were “on fire.” Her legs were covered with shrapnel from the flash-bang grenade, which burns at a temperature of 3,800-4,200 degrees. The skin on both of her calves had been eaten away.
The raid was staged in pursuit of a drug dealer who didn’t live at the address, and who wasn’t known by either Williams or her boyfriend. The city paid off the victim with a huge subsidized settlement, but the criminals who left her mangled were never punished.
Rickia underwent long and painful skin-graft treatments in which flesh was removed from her scalp in order to reconstruct her legs. She is still undergoing therapy to recover from her injuries.
In December 2011, the City Council shelled out $1 million in plundered wealth to settle Russell’s lawsuit – and most of that sum will probably be devoured by medical expenses. One of her assailants, former Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford – has subsequently been charged with first-degree assault for an unprovoked attack on a 40-year-old man named Brian Vander Lee at a bar last June.
Vander Lee, a father of four who is employed in the productive sector, was talking on a cell phone when Clifford accosted him and then hit him with a punch to the head that knocked him to the ground. As a result of falling head-first onto a concrete surface, the victim suffered head trauma so intense that it required two brain surgeries and 40 hours on life support.
The bold and valiant SWAT operator who sucker-punched the unarmed and puzzled victim – and then ran away -- insisted that he acted in “self-defense” – but don’t they always? He remains on paid administrative leave pending his trial in April.
In 2011, Minneapolis tax victims underwrote $4.7 million in legal settlements to “Little People” who suffered criminal violence at the hands of the municipality’s punitive caste – and to the survivors of people who were killed by them. City Attorney Susan Segal breezily dismisses that figure, and the carnage that produced it, as the kind of overhead that comes from doing a brisk business in official coercion.
“Minneapolis Police have more than a million contacts with people every year, and our officers are constantly in harm’s way,” Segal sniffed. She apparently believes that the danger comes from the police coming into contact with the public they supposedly serve, when clearly the police themselves are the most prolific practitioners of violence.
In 2007, another $4.7 million settlement was paid to a single victim -- the late Duy Ngo. Mr. Ngo was a Vietnamese refugee who enlisted in the Army the summer of his senior year in High School and became a police officer a few years later. In 2003, while working undercover with the Metro Gang Strike Force, Ngo was shot by a fellow officer.
Ngo, who was sitting in an unmarked police vehicle in an area frequently by drug dealers, was shot by a would-be carjacker. His bullet-resistant vest saved Ngo’s life during the initial shooting. After calling for assistance, Ngo pursued the attacker, but lost him within a few blocks. Seeking to catch his breath, and dealing with abdominal pain from the point-blank shots fired into his vest, Ngo slumped to his knees at an intersection, then waved his hands feebly when a police car pulled up. A few seconds later, Officer Charles Storlie emerged from the car and immediately opened up on Ngo with his MP5 semi-automatic machine gun. Ngo survived the second shooting, but was left permanently disabled.
More painful than his physical injuries was the sense of disillusionment that descended on Ngo as he found himself being treated as one of the “Little People.”
The department he had served ventilated rumors that Ngo, an Army reservist, had staged the initial shooting in an attempt to avoid deployment to Iraq. When Storlie visited Ngo in the hospital, the shooter informed the victim that although he regretted Ngo’s condition, he believed that he had done the right thing in the circumstances by shooting him – and that he would do exactly the same thing in the future in similar situations.
Ladies and gentlemen: Behold a police officer who meets Law Enforcement Training, Inc.’s “No Hesitation” standard.
Ngo eventually underwent twenty-six surgeries. The department, employing every dilatory tactic it had perfected in dealing with excessive force complaints filed by Mundanes, dragged out the official inquiry through four years and the administrations of three police chiefs. In 2007, the city approved a $4.7 million civil settlement to Ngo.
“The settlement was a staggering amount of money,” observed Mayor R.T. Rybak. “But it’s staggering how much officers put their lives on the line.”
Rybak deployed the appropriate cliché without considering the context: Ngo, once again, was shot to pieces by another police officer – that is, someone who represents the most dangerous element in the city.
Ngo’s vest saved him from the first shooting. In the second shooting, his body was mangled but his life was spared because of the characteristically poor marksmanship of a police officer. But the wounds – and the concentrated viciousness of the bureaucracy that employed him – did eventually prove fatal: He committed suicide in June 2010.
By that time, Ngo – who remained on the force – was confined to clerical duties. That means that he was a Cop In Name Only, a status just above that of the Little People. And in the eyes of the Exalted Purveyors of Officially Sanctioned Violence, such creatures are useful for little more than target practice.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.
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