Patricia Nell Warren

Terrorists in Blue: Police Running Out of Control

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | July 01, 2009 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Fort Worth gay bar raid, police brutality, police terrorism, San Diego fundraiser raid, U.S. Patriot Act

While Americans argue about how to prosecute foreign terrorists, a mammoth irony is festering among us. We already have home-grown armed terrorists running amok in many of our cities and communities. They operate openly, not in secret "cells." And they wear blue uniforms. Yes, "terrorist" is an accurate description for out-of-control cops who use maximum force in the course of what they insist are routine actions. Because that's what "terrorism" is -- the use of extreme force in order to intimidate and control a population.

Yet our government is doing little to stop this law-enforcement terror war on our citizens.

The raid on a Fort Worth gay bar during Stonewall's anniversary weekend was shocking in itself, because it harked back to the homophobic police actions so common in the 1950s and 1960s. Gay activists are now shouting their outrage that such a thing could happen 40 years after Stonewall. But let's not miss a further point. This raid is a symptom of a deadly growing problem that affects every American's rights, regardless of their sexual orientation.

My good friends in Dallas, activist John Selig and his husband Rodolfo Arredondo, joined the protests and interviewed witnesses of the Rainbow Lounge bar raid. In an email to his news list, John detailed how out-of-control the police were. Clearly this raid was not a routine check for "public intoxication." Nor does there appear to be any basis for the police claim that bar patrons made sexual advances towards the arresting officers. Claims like this are the standard fictions that police often use to justify aggressive arrests.

In other words, this raid -- since it was aimed at a new bar -- was clearly aimed at terrorizing and intimidating the LGBT population of Fort Worth. Indeed, according to John Selig, all the witnesses used the word "terrorize" to describe how they felt.

The city of Fort Worth has been blizzarded with furious demands for investigation of the raid. The police chief has been compelled to promise a full investigation, though he has already backed up his officers' allegations that they were provoked to act when some bar patrons felt them up. His position comes as no surprise -- Texas has long been a hotbed of both police brutality and homophobia.

But wait -- there's more.

That same Stonewall weekend, in San Diego County, a sheriff's task force of eight cruisers and a helicopter raided a Democratic fundraiser for Congressional candidate Francine Busby, held at the home of a lesbian couple. The cops' excuse: an allegation of excessive noise, made by a homophobic neighbor. The police terrorists are said to have roughed up the two hosts and pepper-sprayed the crowd of middle-aged guests, including candidate Busby, who is now all over the sheriff's office, demanding an investigation.

Eight cruisers and a police chopper to investigate a complaint about party noise? Yeah, right. This time, homophobia was clearly not the only motive. After all, it was a Dem fundraiser being held in an area that is very Republican and right-wing.

The fact is, police terrorism is pepper-spraying the social landscape all over the U.S.

This morning my Google search for "police brutality" turned up nearly 2,200,000 links, including so many graphic YouTube videos that I probably couldn't watch them all in a day. Among them is the now-famous recent video of a burly six-foot-two cop tasing a greatgrandmother who had argued with him about a traffic ticket. Now that police presence is standard in our K-12 school system, there are incidents of campus cops tasing or pepper-spraying children. Other incidents feature the callous dumping of quadriplegics or other disabled people out of their wheelchairs. No political agendas there -- just some knothead cop or deputy who went ballistic on another person because he or she had the unchallenged power to do it.

I defy anybody to read through a few dozen of these Google pages, and look at the unvarnished evidence of the videos, and not realize that we have a nationwide problem with growing police terrorism against our own people.

Why is this happening?

Two years ago, USA Today published an alarming special report under the headline POLICE BRUTALITY CASES ON RISE SINCE 9/11. Reporter Kevin Johnson wrote, "Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality, Justice Department statistics show. The heightened prosecutions come as the nation's largest police union fears that agencies are dropping standards to fill thousands of vacancies and "scrimping" on training. Cases in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims' civil rights have increased 25% (281 vs. 224) from fiscal years 2001 to 2007 over the previous seven years, the department says."

Johnson also mentioned another alarming fact. He said, "Federal records show the vast majority of police brutality cases referred by investigators are not prosecuted....Last year, 96% of cases referred for prosecution by investigative agencies were declined. The high refusal rates, say law enforcement analysts, result in part from the extraordinary difficulty in prosecuting abuse cases. Juries are conditioned to believe cops, and victims' credibility is often challenged."

Bad cops may have gone over the top since 9/11, but the problem is nothing new. Police terrorism has threatened civil-rights activism ever since our nation launched. Through the 1930s, Americans who weren't blue collar looked the other way as police beat up and even murdered labor organizers. After all, "those agitators could be commies." When the black civil-rights marches started in the 1950s and '60s, American white conservatives tolerated police brutality -- even encouraged it -- because it was being used against marchers with whom they didn't sympathize.

Then, in the '60s and '70s, police brutality diversified itself against other unpopular-with-conservative groups -- hippies, pot smokers, students, feminists, gays, and anti-war veterans and civilians -- all of whom who were swelling the outpouring of protest across the country. These, too, were people that conservatives thought it was okay for police to abuse.

Through the 1980s and '90s, the criminal penalties for peaceful protest were quietly stiffened by conservative forces in government. Meanwhile, police terrorism against any kind of peaceful protest got worse. Americans looked the other way when police used terrorist tactics against protesters who were opposing illegal logging, sweatshop labor and all kinds of newer issues. It culminated in disgraceful episodes like the 2001 beating of Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) by Navy cops when he was arrested during a peaceful protest in Puerto Rico.

In short, even elected officials became targets, if the political stakes were high enough.

Police Wars on Ethnic Neighborhoods

Beyond its use against protest, police terrorism has maintained a ghastly day-to-day presence in the lives of racial minorities.

African-Americans experience it from out-of-control white cops in their neighborhoods and cities. Police are there with the legitimate reason of dealing with ethnic gang violence. Yet this legitimate reason has been corrupted into the frequent use of excuses for unjustified force. The 1992 L.A. riots were touched off by a jury's failure to convict four police officers who savagely beat a black man, Rodney King, afterwards claiming that he had resisted arrest. Today, though "profiling" is supposedly illegal, you can find thousands of stories online where local cops use what turns out to be unjustified force on a law-abiding black man at a routine traffic stop, even shooting to kill some kid if it suits them.

The same can be said for police terrorism against law-abiding Mexican-Americans, Native Americans and other minorities. Certain cities are hot spots of police terrorism -- like Chicago, which is so notorious for abuses that the city council has tried passing special legislation to control it. In a recent book, Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City, authors Andrea McArdle and Tanya Erzon detail police terrorism against the Chinese immigrant community in Brooklyn.

Yes, many Americans have actually ignored and tolerated police terrorism, as long as it was directed at somebody they didn't like -- at "the fags" or "the nigras" or "the greasers" or "ragheads" or even "uppity women." But now the terrorism is so out of control that it can happen randomly to anybody and everybody who gets in the way of the blue juggernaut, no matter what the politics or circumstances are. And this terrorism is supposedly being waged in order to "keep us safe."

The new wave of police terrorism has its recession-related dark side too. Any suspect who gets hauled in with a terror-type arrest can be hit with multiple charges of "resisting arrest," "assaulting an officer," or whatever fabricated charges might stick to the wall. As a result, arrestees can get stuck with a huge bail and enormous fines. This is a national trend too, and it's actually a violation of the Bill of Rights, which forbids excessive bails and excessive fines. But guess what -- the out-of-control bails and fines are a source of extra income for local justice systems, to replace the budget cuts that they are experiencing.

Why So Little Media Attention?

The Fort Worth bar raid is getting a lot of mainstream media coverage -- but largely as an isolated incident. In general, police terrorism hasn't gotten nearly the unfriendly media investigative attention that it deserves. Using the yardstick of the 1992 L.A. riots, the whole country should be set on fire by now. There should be massive public resentment at the whopping 96-percent of brutality cases that don't ever get prosecuted. Yet most Americans appear to be curiously unaware that their number could come up next.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think all cops are goons. I don't think that having a police force is a bad thing. When our homes are burglarized, or someone we love is harmed, we want the guys in blue to show up.

But police have to obey the same system of law that they expect all other citizens to obey. So the Fort Worth gay-bar raid isn't just a "gay problem." It's also an "everybody problem."

Non-gay Americans need to wake up and smell the pepper spray. They may not give a hoot if a gay bar gets raided. And they may feel comfortable with denying "equality under the law" to LGBT people. But they will find that they're not equal under the law either, in that horrible moment when they're finally facing a few rogue law-enforcement personnel who are armed to the teeth.

So when will Congress do something about it? When will juries stop believing the fabricated stories that cops tell to justify their routine use of maximum force? When will local prosecutors start prosecuting every case of police brutality to the fullest extent of the law? Police terrorism has grown because cops know that they'll get away with it.

As the new Democratic administration tries to reel our country back from U.S. Patriot Act excesses, it's time for this issue to be put on the list of things to fix, right next to how we can legitimately prosecute "foreign terrorists." After all, America's out-of-control police are just as bad for the country as Al Qaeda. President Obama, please take note.


Facebook members can find an informative and growing page about this Fort Worth story. Just search for "Rainbow Lounge raid."

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A dear freind was attacked by the police years ago for walking in the park. The cops had no evidence, so they invented some.
That's what got me. Lying about others on the public record breaks the 9th commanmend, and they did it without a second thought. When my freind won his case, no one called the police to account. And that was just as upsetting.
This happens only in back water holes like LA and Tulsa, where the fundamentalists don't know much about the bible.
It's like an alien world to me. I grew up in a liberal area, where people respect the basics of scripture, and making a false accusation is so over the top, no one would even consider it. Here in Stickville, they do it for sport.

It doesn't just happen in "backwaters" I live in Mass. and I have seen the cops here tell lies in court and be verbally abusive and threatening.
NYC cops dragged an activist of the Pride parade when they targeted the marching unit for people of color. It is happening all across the US and not just the "backwaters".

Ft. Worth isn't backwater. It was one of the first cities to have sexual orientation included in it's non-discrimination policy. The LGBT community has had a good relationship with the Ft. Worth Police Department and one of the current City Council Members is openly gay. Ft. Worth is only 35 miles from Dallas, which has a much large LGBT community. The DFW Metroplex is the 4th largest metro in the country.

The TABC has now reassigned their two officers who were at the raid. I suppose they were traumatized by being "groped!" Fortunately this incident has received a great deal of media attention both locally and nationally and there have been a lot of protests with more being planed. I am sure that The Ft. Worth City Council meeting in mid-July will get rather lively!

Thanks for the great post, Patricia

Absolutely horrible. Other than Maddow last night, I haven't seen anything else on this in the MSM.

I've been told that there was CNN and some other major coverage today, though I didn't see it myself.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 2, 2009 12:14 AM

Patricia, I left Chicago for Florida in 2002. We were also glad to have police arrive in Chicago when shots were fired or drugs were openly being sold to schoolchildren on the streets or in the park. Luis Gutierezz was my congressional representative.

Police are only human beings. I have relatives who are retired cops and, believe me, I know that they are imperfect human beings. They also see a lot of the stuff that most Americans don't want to see. They are among the people that run toward the bloody fights rather than from them. It is not surprising that they become immune to what they are doing. The lowering of standards aside it is a tough job. Still, anyone who has abused this power must cease being a police officer. 1968 and "The Chicago Police Riot" is a long time ago and even the methods of reporting "crime" have changed to legalese just in case.

Someone "gave an order" in Ft Worth and that is the somabitch who needs to be drawn and quartered. If the police fabricate evidence that too must be investigated. This will all depend upon the local community's desire which we can perhaps influence, but cannot control. It is when local communities, or states, realize that there is a problem that police will change their trigger happy ways. Every statehouse is afraid to be perceived as "weak on crime" as America is putting CCTV cameras everywhere. These cameras will help to control police behavior too.

I'm aware that not all cops are bad eggs. The problem comes from the ones who are...and there are apparently a lot of them. Some of the shocking videos are actually police-dept footage, taken from their own videos.

When it comes to handling protests, or situations like the Rainbow raid, a complex established system of "cover up" comes into play, involving not only the officers on the street, but chiefs and prosecutors. For instance, in your typical big protest, many hundreds of people can be arrested. All kinds of allegations are made, in hopes that some of the charges will stick to the wall. Inevitably some of them are dismissed because the defense can prove somehow that the arresting officer commit perjury when they make allegations about what a protester did to deserve rough handling during arrest. You can read that in the press followup on almost any big protest. As far as I know, officers are never disciplined if it's shown that they were lying.

It will be interesting to see if a grand jury buys the Fort Worth allegations that officers were provoked by being groped by bar patrons. Their chief praised what he called their "restraint." Yet there were a lot of witnesses to what happened.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, the Sheriff's office has an ongoing public plan against brown people. His posse terrorizes low income immigrant neighborhoods, even raiding one of our city halls to arrest the cleaning crew, most of which were legal residents/citizens. Statistically, brown people get stopped and arrested even when they have papers that show they are here legally. The legislature passes laws that will allow people to carry concealed weapons anywhere, including schools, bars, restaurants, and public buildings; and they look the other way when these outrages happen. After all, the Latinos vote less or none at all.
I think people need to get angry, and without the exposure of these situations with the appropriate follow up, no one will.

Welcome to my world, peeps.

We African Americans learn as young children that 'Officer friendly' ain't so friendly when you're a POC or a minority group they despise.

Domestic terrorism in it's height. Our beaten, tortured and murdered LGTB community experiences it all of the time.

Yes, the bigger picture here is that the police are and have been out of control for many a moon.

As I have mentioned before, The New York Times has not covered the Rainbow Raid, nor any of the other violence surrounding pride events around the country.

Here's my plan - oh, God, I wish I could implement it - Drive klunker cars, painted pink, into expressway interchanges and major intersections throughout the U. S., lock them up, take the keys, and walk away -- at 3:00PM local time on Friday July 3rd.

Create nationwide gridlock so that 30 minute commutes throughout the nation become 3 hour commutes -- or longer.

Happy 4th of July from the Queers.

There are police officers, and there are pigs. Obviously, in Fort Worthless, they allow swine on the force. Not the only place, either.

Call 'em what they are.

There are police officers, and there are pigs. Obviously, in Fort Worthless, they allow swine on the force. Not the only place, either.

Call 'em what they are.

In all political actions (and this IS political) the rule is:
Follow the Money!
The question is, where is the money coming from? Is it the neighbors of the bar, is it a major contributor to the FW mayor or CoP race, or did the bar owner refuse to pay protection money to the cops?

it’s been creeping in for decades, but humans have an amazing ability for denial; when I was a kid in the middle of the last century we believed the line ‘a policeman is your friend'; it's been so long that I can’t remember when it stopped being true; e.g. did you hear the one about the Polish immigrant the cops killed at Vancouver International Airport because he didn’t speak English?

Michael W. | July 2, 2009 3:00 PM

Patricia: Thank you! I posted this on my Facebook page (RNWinsor). I am now a Registered Nurse.

You are so on target with what you said.

This problem will be solved if and when we're ever ready to admit that we can't have a police force exist without accountability. Something tells me that will never happen, since our country is wedded to the idea that if we just get the biggest, meanest bully on the block on our side, then we'll all be safe.

Rick Sours | July 2, 2009 7:24 PM

Regarding LBGT harassment and hate I honestly feel although law enforcement officers are well intended, they do not understand the seriousness of this harassment. They will take a report but when they talk with the other party at some level they tend to take what the harasser says as fact.

Plea bargaining should not be allowed. Pleading not guilty and flooding the courts is the only way to bankrupt law enforcements current revenue generating corrupt protocol that has been practiced the last few decades.

Need to defend yourself against charges of assault by an LGBT person?

Officer: "Oh, they touched me inappropriately."

Judge, Prosecutor, Internal Affairs, Bigots: "Oh, okay then. Good job. I can't believe you showed such restraint."

Calling police officers "Domestic Terrorists" is ridiculous. Sure, a handful of creeps are on the job - but isn't that true anywhere?

How did the LAPD and LASO do during the Prop 8 protests? As I recall, they got applause and accolades when it was all said and done.

Domestic terrorists? Hardly.