Denver Direct: Brutal Police

Friday, June 3, 2011

Brutal Police

Editorial by Phil Goodstein

Subscribe for only $10/year

The city recently settled a suit for $795,000 for a vicious police beating of a citizen. On the heels of this, authorities ruled that members of the sheriff’s department conducted business as normal when they beat to death a badly troubled inmate who wanted to fetch his shoes. These are recurring episodes where the city has forked over millions of dollars in recent years to victims of law enforcement brutality. Yet not one police officer or sheriff’s deputy has faced criminal charges for assault. This not only reflects the thoroughly limpid role of district attorneys Bill Ritter and Mitch Morrissey, but also reveals the essential function of police brutality.

As much as to “serve and protect,” the police are guards of the status quo. Reverting to the polices of Mayor William H. McNichols, under Wellington Webb, city hall made it clear that officers had virtual immunity in beating and intimidating those of the wrong class or color who appeared to threaten the status quo. (The finest achievement of Federico Pena was to weed out the brutality-as-usual old-line officers of the police department even while he surrounded himself with body guards, a sign of his fear of those who had put him in office. He simultaneously began a campaign to treat citizens as suspects, subject to intimidating searches, when they came to the City and County Building.)

Recently, Webb celebrated the vicious United States bombing attack on the people of Libya. Such military terror, he argued, actually protects everyday Libyans against that country’s vicious dictator. The irony of launching a war and killing civilians in the name of saving them through “humanitarian” intervention is far beyond Webb and others who have loyally lined up behind the wars of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The former mayor’s acceptance of such military adventurism is simply an extension of his police policies: official state violence as a means of telling everyday people to watch their step and not question or challenge the corporate/Washington line.

Police violence is not the product of a few out-of-control officers. It reflects the values and priorities of those with power. While Webb, who once called for an outside civilian review board of the police, Hickenlooper, feeling a bit guilty about police violence, created a police monitor. The post is indicative of the man: it is largely powerless, but shows an official concern about the continuation of the McNichols-Webb Police policies.

Amidst this, there has been the continued silence of the district attorney’s office. Far from being an independent force assuring that justice is the community’s primary goal, it is a close partner with the police. As such, it is virtually incapable of dealing with crimes committed by Denver’s finest. Meanwhile, given the way the bulk of the population has been successfully subdued by police violence. lifeless politicians, and the propaganda system, the personal injury lawyers taking on the city over official violence stand out as the guardians of community integrity, a sign of the depths to which Denver has descended.

The Naysayers next meet on Saturday, June 4, Enzo’s Pizza, 3424 Colfax (between Cook and Madison) 5:30 PM