July 23, 2024

genesis of lethal forcein modern America

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The genesis of lethal force in modern America
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — Moments before the guilty verdicts were announced in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, another unarmed Black person was shot and killed by police. This time it was in Ohio, and the victim was a 16-year-old girl wielding a knife and allegedly threatening another teen.
          Are these killings happening with greater regularity? Or does it just seem that way due to the media attention around the murder of George Floyd?
          One school of thought holds that these incidents are the norm and only more apparent now with the advent of body cameras and smartphones. But these recording devices were not invented yesterday; they have been around for several years, which begs the question. Have these killings by police gotten worse? And if the answer is yes, why?
          The era of Trump impacted societal norms, and one of the former president’s notable legacies was how he made white supremacists legitimate starting with Charlottesville and then on the presidential debate stage, praising the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist organization. He made it clear to white people, mainly men, that they were losing ground to people of color, and he made it okay for these white men to vent their anger.
          He summoned them to Washington for a rally to coincide with the ceremony to finalize the presidential vote he knew Vice President Pence would oversee. He urged them to march to the U.S. Capitol, and he said he would walk with them. Instead, he watched television from the safety of the White House as the January 6th insurrectionists threatened lawmakers and trashed the Capitol.
          He continues to perpetuate the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him, which millions of people believe despite the lack of evidence. He has unleashed a level of overt racism and turned it into a political movement of grievance that makes Black Americans feel underappreciated and unwanted.
          The slogan that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House, Make America Great Again, he corrupted to mean Make America White Again. Dozens of retired and off-duty police took part in the January 6 breach of the Capitol, and a report prepared by NPR found that one in five of the rioters were active-duty military or veterans.
          Another question that must be asked: How many white supremacists have found their way into policing at various levels, and how many are in the armed forces? Military commanders are updating their vetting processes to include social media to identify the kinds of groups young men and women join or follow.
          Attorney general Merrick Garland announced in the aftermath of the Chauvin verdict and another shooting in the Minneapolis area of a 20-year-old black youth that the federal government would investigate the Minneapolis police department for “patterns and practices” of systemic racism. During the Obama administration, dozens of these investigations formed the basis for consent decrees for reforms carried out under the supervision of a federal judge.
          During the Trump era, these consent decrees were severely curtailed, basically giving police departments carte blanche for business as usual without having to worry about the federal government stepping in. It’s a new day with Garland prioritizing “patterns and practices” investigations as a civil-rights tool.
          On the military side, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, spoke out after the November 2020 election amidst concerns that Trump might employ the military to remain in office. Milley said, "We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual." It is part of Trump’s legacy that there could even be any doubt about such loyalties.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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