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'Many cops imagine they are in a war zone'

'Many cops imagine they are in a war zone'
by Vin Suprynowicz

When writing anything critical of a police officer, we newsmen are trained from our cub reporter days to always lead with the caveat: "The vast majority of police officers are fine, dedicated public servants, of course, who bravely put their lives on the line each day..."

Unfortunately, based on the hard evidence of 118 e-mail responses I've received from our Boys in Blue or Beige to my May 16 column on Las Vegas Metro Officer Bruce Gentner, who emptied a 14-round magazine into an unarmed suspect but whose actions were found "justifiable" (as usual) by a Las Vegas coroner's jury (after the officer explained the suspect refused to raise his hands quickly enough and made a supposed "furtive movement towards his waistband,") it appears that traditional, rhetorical ratio may now have to be reversed.

I did, thank heavens, receive a few civil and thoughtful replies from some of our armed centurions, acknowledging every shooting is different, that a few may be wrongful, and sensibly asking further details on the death of 32-year-old Las Vegan John Perrin, who was armed only with a basketball.

More typical however, were comments like:

"You are a piece of trash and if there is any justice then you will someday be placed under a magnifying glass and fried like the roach you are." (Officer R.D.)

"Wear my shoes one damn day, you piece of sh-t ..." wrote Officer T.M., delicately removing his own offending vowel. "Try a 40 cal. S&W behind your ear."

"Just wanted to let you know that you are a no good, second guessing coward who hides behind subjective reporting." (Officer J.W.)

"I hope soon you will be ... the victim of a mugging or some other form of violent attack. (No signature.)

"I find the press mostly reprehensible. ... in the past the press served a purpose--now they just serve themselves." (Officer D.P.)

"I wouldn't WASTE a bullet on your sorry butt. Someone like you with one-sided opinions should not be authoring columns for the largest paper in Las Vegas. I'm sure that Soon you will get yours, probably from some crazed person with a gun, like the ones that Police Officers are right now protecting you from with their lives." (also unsigned.)

The train of invective went on, growing in volume as reports of my criticism spread to police Internet discussion lists. In the end, 67 percent of the respondents -- 80 out of 118 officers -- appeared to be doing their best to convince me that the armed "public servants" now charged with our safety resemble nothing so much as a troop of quasi-literate, homicidal trolls.

(So anxious were some of the officers to hurl the worst insults in their limited lexicon that some even branded me a "liberal" -- an odd label for a writer who favors universal machinegun ownership and abolition of the IRS, with no "replacement tax" whatsoever.)

The most chilling, though, was probably the lengthy reply of T.B., an officer with the Cleveland, Ohio police department (who, to his credit, and unlike many of the critics above, did supply his full name -- I withhold it here because I have no way to positively confirm his identity.) T.B. firmly asserts police have every right to shoot unarmed suspects "100 times, if necessary," and continues:

"Here's a word of advice: if you're going to be a know-it-all, cop-hating, rhetoric-spewing moron please at least strive to be original. First of all the officer never chooses the time and place. The suspect alone makes that choice. Know why? Because police officers are bound by law to act on any suspicious or criminal activity they observe. That means that if you get stopped by a police officer you f--ing cooperate. End of story. Sorry to disappoint you but we're not the 'Klan in blue' or the Gestapo or Government storm troopers. But an individual's right to behave like an asshole in public ends when it draws my attention."

I fear it may be significant that the most hostile invective appeared to come from younger "street" officers. The more sober analyses, perhaps predictably but also sadly, came mostly from officers who have already hung up their shields.

Robert Flesh, for instance, a former detective sergeant with the West Palm Beach Police Department, wrote:

"The Gentner/Vegas shooting of an unarmed American citizen (not a 'suspect,' since the victim had not committed any crime, nor was there any 'reasonable' suspicion that he had) is totally indefensible on any grounds. And this is true regardless of whether one chooses to believe the alleged 'tightening of the arm muscles' and/or 'hand in the waistband' BS or not. This was simply a bad shooting. So bad, in fact, that I can't believe any HONEST cop, or prosecutor, or grand jury would condone it.

"Let's face it, who wants this guy (or any cop like him) drawing down on them the next time they are partying in Vegas and not in the mood to be put face down on the pavement when they haven't done anything wrong? And what Chief in his right mind would allow a loose cannon like Gentner to work the streets when his MO is to empty his pistol into the backs of citizens who (perhaps rightfully) tell him to F--k off when he wants to shake them down for no legitimate reason whatsoever?

"Beyond this one case, what I see is a generalized 'siege', or 'police state' mentality at work today in American law enforcement. Many police officers are so caught up in fighting criminals that they forget that the vast majority of American citizens are honest and law-abiding and have certain 'RIGHTS' that are not to be violated by the police. Consequently, many cops have started imagining they are in a war zone where search and destroy ops are legal. In short, they only see two kinds of people: cops and criminals ('us vs. the enemy'). ...

"What kind of bleeding-heart-liberal would say this kind of thing about 'modern' law enforcement?" Det. Sgt. Flesh continues. "A whoring reporter? A lying defense lawyer? A corrupt politician looking for votes? Maybe they all would. But I happen to be a former patrolman and detective sergeant from a high crime south Florida city, have earned over 50 police commendations, made 400 to 500 felony arrests, have three police-officer-of-the-year awards, was involved in several on-duty shootings and was often accused of being 'overzealous,' myself.

"So haven't things gone just a wee bit too far when even veteran street cops like myself start saying that many of today's officers are ignoring the constitutional rights of honest citizens? And if police officers in general really have adopted a dangerous and abusive 'police state' or 'siege' mindset, isn't it time for American law enforcement to step back from the firing line long enough to honestly evaluate itself, and hopefully chart a new and more constitutional course, before it's too damn late?"

Det. Sgt. Flesh added a personal note: "Vin, sorry to hear of the threats. ... Hang in there. You are right, and anyone with a lick of sense knows it."


Vin Suprynowicz is one of the most articulate spokesmen serving on the front lines of the Freedom Movement we have. Vin's timely and well written articles are syndicated in newspapers all around the country, and they circulate around the world freely on the Internet and in Libertarian publications. He is the author of Send in the Waco Killers, the book that tells the details the media failed to tell in plain English. The best way to get Vin is to subscribe directly to the e-mail distribution list for his column. Send a request to vinsends-request@ezlink.com with "subscribe" in the subject line.

It is an honor to host this man's work, and we encourage you to visit his site and read his book. To read other articles by Vin on this site, click here. You can also see his full archives at these two sites:
http://www.nguworld.com/vindex
http://www.infomagic.com/liberty/vinyard.htm

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 QUOTES TO REMEMBER
The whole of the Bill of Rights is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals. It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of. Albert Gallatin of the New York Historical Society, October 7, 1789.

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