The connection between the world of insanity and a world that comes far closer to criminal defense turned out to be Copwatch, a site dedicated to police accountability. It was a tenuous connection at best.
Jerad Miller — who along with his wife, Amanda, gunned down the Vegas police officers before dying during a shootout with police — was one of Cop Block’s 780,000-plus Facebook fans.
But after the killing of two officers, the ugliness beneath the surface quickly appeared:
The celebrating began before the coroner could collect the bodies of Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, the Las Vegas patrol officers ambushed and executed while eating at a pizzeria last month.
“The good news is, there are two less police in the world,” read an entry on the Facebook page for CopBlock.org.
The post was visible for less than a day, but it attracted at least 6,300 likes and comments by the time the page’s administrators removed it.
Like Copblock, SJ has become something of a repository of police misconduct and abuse, and has drawn the attention of websites promoting hatred and violence toward police. Unlike Copwatch, close supervision — some say overbearing supervision — would have precluded any possibility of a comment that the murder of police officers is in any way acceptable.
But that’s not to say that I haven’t learned a great deal about the seething hatred and frustration of many readers. I read the comments that are trashed, and do not allow comments that promote violence toward others, particularly cops. Those who believe that’s a solution to their anger toward “tyranny” have no place here. They will find no comfort and support. They are wrong and sick.
The purpose of preventing police harming others is never furthered by promoting harm toward anyone. No one. Indeed, I find it troubling when lawyers begin generically referring to police as “thugs,” or what they do as “tyranny,” as it feeds into the mindset of anger and violence. I understand the sense of frustration and hopelessness, but invoking violence and hatred as a solution makes you as bad as the worst cop. The idea is to be better, not just as bad in the opposite direction.
The decentralized advocacy group says it disavows violence while spreading a belief that “badges don’t grant extra rights.”
“There was blanket rejoicing over the deaths of two people and I don’t think that’s good in any situation,” [Pete] Eyre said. “It didn’t fit Cop Block ideology. The site’s not an anti-police thing; it’s like a pro-personal empowerment site.”
While I’m sure Pete means what he says, disavowing violence may not suffice given what Copwatch does. Single issue websites become lightning rods for crazies, and without a substantial amount of oversight, too easily become a home for festering hatred.
Last week the SPLC issued a report warning law enforcement about the increasingly hostile anti-government movement, which it estimates has grown from 150 groups in 2008 to nearly 1,100 last year.
The economic crisis, proposed gun control, Barack Obama’s election, NSA spying and the militarization of police among other issues have spurred the resurgence, the watchdog organization said.
“There’s a hell of a lot of anger out there in certain corridors,” [SPLC's Mark] Potok told Yahoo News. “Jerad Miller was not the only one who saw police in the United States as Nazis.”
It’s impossible to write and comment about criminal law, police and prosecutorial misconduct, without knowing that there are a great many angry, potentially violent, people out there, galvanizing around websites on the internet where people of the same mind share their anger, bolstering each other’s worst thoughts and impulses.
They spread bizarrely wrong misinformation among themselves, and crazy explanations for why others, people like me for instance, are part of the conspiracy of tyranny. After all, anyone who doesn’t support armed insurrection doesn’t get it, by definition. You wouldn’t believe some of the insane claims and arguments people try to offer here.
To the extremists and the insane, SJ comes off as a cop-loving website, and I am called a badge-licker, because of my intolerance of violence and stupidity. The cops would have these ideas declared criminal, because reasons.
Rich Stanek, who chairs the National Sheriffs’ Association Homeland Security Committee, said he proudly protects constitutional rights, but he worries social networking gives radicals such as Miller a false sense of recognition.
“They can post, blog and do so freely and anonymously without any accountability whatsoever,” said Stanek, sheriff of Hennepin County in Minnesota.
We do not have the same vision of what it means to “proudly protect constitutional rights.” The core concept of free speech is that people “can post, blog and do so freely and anonymously without any accountability whatsoever,” which is what Stanek can’t stomach if it’s bad for his gang. Notably, he chairs the Homeland Security Committee. There is no chair of the “Stop Police Misconduct, Abuse and Violence” committee. Stanek might consider connecting the dots.
I spend a lot of time with cops. Not just in my practice, but in my free time. Cops like cars, and when I take my Healey to a car show, I’ll find myself hanging around with off-duty cops with muscle cars and Corvettes. They really like ‘Vettes. Sure, some have better taste in cars, but an awful lot love ‘Vettes.
When they’re wearing the car-guy hats, they’re pretty much like anyone else. There’s the occasional hard case, but even the other cops tend to steer clear of them, saying they’re the ones who give cops a bad name. I’ve explained that the failure to rid the ranks of these “bad cops” is a big part of the problem. They look at me as if I just don’t get it.
What I’ve learned is that they’re just as afraid of us as we are of them. Hence, the First Rule of Policing, except that they can’t understand what’s wrong with it. This remains a wall that has to come down, and that’s one of the goals here at SJ. The mutual fear and loathing does no good for any of us.
The culture must change, but violence against cops is not the answer. No matter how frustrating and hopeless it may seem, they’re just guys with ‘Vettes who see things through the prism of their own interests. If you feel the urge to harm them, you need psychological help. If they needlessly or excessively harm others, they need to be taken off the job and get help as well.
Nobody, however, needs to be harmed. No matter how frustrated and hopeless you feel, violence is not the answer. For anyone. And if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, or even an advocate against police misconduct, we have a duty to prevent the spread of violence and stupidity. We cannot allow ourselves to lend comfort to those who want to harm others.
H/T Mike Paar