Friday, February 19, 2010

Police Abuse: America isn't Russia

This post is a trifle off-topic for this blog, but not by much.

In my opinion, one of the major threats facing America, and Western countries in general, is a serious misunderstanding by the dominant culture over what threatens their way of life, and what doesn't.

Hard as this may be for America's self-described best and brightest to believe or understand, the FBI, the CIA, and the police are not the greatest threat to their well-being. I acknowledge, however, that not all members of the police force are uniformly trustworthy.

For example, recently the chief of a metropolitan precinct was celebrating with friends and colleagues in a restaurant.
"...After a spat with his wife, he left the restaurant and went to the supermarket, where he wandered the store -- in uniform and carrying a handgun -- shooting random people."

"In all, he attempted the murder of 22 people, according to the court...."
I think the reporter meant that the police chief shot people at random, not people who were "random" in the colloquial sense, but let that pass.

Police Brutality!

The incident reminded me of my college days, and the view of law enforcement held by many of my fellow-students. And, to an extent, faculty.

It seems that this incident validates the view that police are brutal, violent, dangerous people, as a group. Maybe, but there's a twist. Major Denis Yevsyukov is the chief of police in a precinct in southern Moscow. More, from the CNN article:
"...According to investigators, after he was subdued by his fellow policemen Yevsyukov had no regrets about what he did, and said that if he'd had a Kalashnikov machine gun instead of a pistol, he would have used it...."

"...'Victims testified that Yevsyukov not only wanted to kill, he wanted to demonstrate his power and humiliate people,' state prosecutor Amalia Kostoyeva said during the trial...."

It's in Russia? Well, That's Different

I know that some American police officers are not very nice people. There was one individual in my home town who earned a reputation among some of my acquaintances. But - and this is important - that was one individual. My experience with law enforcement - individually and as a group - here in American is that they are professional, competent, and dedicated to serving and protecting the rest of us.

That's America.

Russia is going through a very difficult transition now, about two decades after the worker's paradise went down the drain of history. A colorful collection of people and organizations, with a variety of goals, are making progress. In a variety of directions.

Back to the article.
"...The rampage, captured on the store's surveillance cameras, generated a public outcry in Russia and forced President Dmitry Medvedev to fire the head of Moscow police and to speak about the need for reforming the country's Interior Ministry.

"Along with the flood of press reports ripping police, last November a police officer from southern Russia, Major Alexei Dymovskiy, accused his superiors of corruption in a video posted on YouTube, making him a media star overnight. His posting triggered a series of similar revelations from acting and former police officers across the country.

"The Interior Ministry's official statistics say more than 2,700 criminal cases were opened against policemen in 2009, which independent analysts and human rights activists say is a strong underestimation...."

On the Whole, I'd Rather be in America

I'm proud to be an American.

There, I've said it. I realize that openly admitting a sentiment like that is considered as biased, narrow-minded, even hateful in some of the better circles here in America. But, on the whole, I'm rather glad to have been born in this country.

A great deal of that opinion comes from my contacts with people who weren't, and managed to get here. In one case, curled up in the front of a boat, looking as much like the anchor ropes as possible.

Let's remember that America is one of the countries that people are trying to break into.

Another excerpt. This one is the last, promise.
"...A fresh opinion poll conducted across the country by the Levada Center, an independent polling and sociological organization, suggests that -- in stark contrast with Western democracies -- only 30 percent of Russians trust their police force, while 67 percent fear it.

"And in the city of Moscow, a mere 1 per cent of respondents said they 'rather trusted than distrusted' the police.

" 'Our respondents said their fear of lawlessness from policemen is only slightly less than their fear of attacks from terrorists, hoodlums and criminals,' Polina Cherepova, a Levada Center sociologist, told CNN...."
The good news for Russians is that their problem with the police is in the open now. And this isn't the 'good old days' of the Soviet Union. Some of the same people are in authority, and there's a whole lot of backlog in terms of reforms: but as far as I know Major Alexei Dymovskiy is still alive, and not living in Siberia - so things are changing there.

Police and Perceptions

I could be wrong about this, but it's possible to imagine that the cream of America, those enlightened few who are so much brighter than the rest of us (just ask them), have assumed that police in America are just like their counterparts in Russia. After all, nothing in America could be better than it is in the worker's paradise, right?

As I said, I could be wrong.

On the other hand, America's leaders sometimes seem more concerned with protecting terrorists from law enforcement, than protecting us from the terrorists.

Maybe that'll change, too.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.