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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/29/14

Is it John or Jane Law's Duty to Protect and Serve? Well, Not Always (Part Three)

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If you believe the July 17 senseless vicious death of Eric Garner by a number of New York City's 'Finest' is an isolated incident -- an unfortunate peculiarity -- it's an example of your own naivete and ignorance. There has been an ongoing, ever-building pattern of police brutality and similar horrid acts not only in New York City, but throughout the United States.

You're not to blame for being misinformed, though. The mainstream media has done an inadequate job of covering a constant onslaught of police brutality and sundry abominable wrongdoings by law-enforcement officials in the USA. Every so often a case like Garner's is brought to the national news forefront, but such nationally broadcasted accounts are rare. Not that Garner's case does not deserve to be in the middle of the national spotlight -- his death is a horrible and senseless tragedy. What happened to Garner has many wondering how something so sinister could occur in what is supposed to be a free country. The American public watched in horror as national news outlets showed Garner struggling and soon even dying, who was in every sense a victim and hardly a criminal. He was attacked by NYC cops, strangled, roughed up, banged down onto the concrete, and finally throttled and choked even more. Taking his last few breaths, all the time we heard Garner gasping, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe."

Garner, who was arrested by New York City police for reportedly "selling cigarettes illegally," is just one of many victims who have succumbed in recent days to violence and needless terror at the hands of police in America. At Garner's funeral on Wednesday, July 23, some people who attended Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn were talking about other men who were killed during altercations with New York City police officers -- and a few of the names that came up included Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo and Anthony Baez. (See:

Yes, the beat goes on in other areas of the country. . .

The Orange County Register published an article and accompanying video on Friday, July 25, of a man who was so severely beaten by police in Santa Ana, Calif., that he had to be taken to a hospital. Edgar Vargas Arzate's mother, Olivia Arzate, heard that her son was arrested, but was baffled by why Edgar needed to be hospitalized. A few weeks later she knew why - Olivia saw a video of her son, captured by a security camera attached to the roof of a nearby house, which showed Edgar raising his hands in the air while a cop signaled to him with a flashlight to lie on the ground. Then the video quickly evolves into something bordering on a shark-feeding frenzy - big burly guys dressed in blue uniforms begin beating Arzate, who by now is lying on the ground, on his stomach, in a yard. While an officer has Edgar pinned to the ground, another cop approaches and appears to put a knee on Arzate's back, then strikes him hard with six consecutive punches. More officers arrive. At one point, Arzate can be seen on his side as the team of cops reach toward his hands, which are near his stomach. Although Arzate's actions are outside the view of the camera, this is police brutality at its worst -- in criminology-textbook form. Why didn't the cops simply handcuff Arzate, throw him in a cruiser, and get him down to the police station where he could be booked and jailed? (See the video and article here:

"Yes, arrest and punish him, but why did they hit him?" Olivia Arzate said in the online page of The Orange County Register. (See, ibid:

Although Edgar Vargas Arzate was allegedly involved in attempted burglary, the police appear in the video even more criminal than someone committing such a serious felony.

Is America becoming a police state?
Is America becoming a police state?
(Image by AK Rockefeller)
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Police officials in Santa Ana claim that the 27-year-old Arzate fled from officers during a burglary call on June 20, jumped over backyard fences and climbed onto roofs to evade being apprehended and arrested. But police caught up with him near the 400 block of Sycamore Street in Santa Ana -- just a few blocks from Arzate's residence. He was subsequently charged with attempted burglary, battery on a peace officer, unlawful tampering of a vehicle, and resisting a police officer, according to court records. (See, ibid:

There's always the threadbare argument that police are stressed out, that they're overworked, that they deal with the criminal element doing horrid heinous things all day, every day, nonstop. So they have every right to treat criminals in a brutal way. But police cannot unnecessarily and brutally injure or kill someone. No. We expect, deserve and demand much better here -- in the USA, supposedly a free country. And this evolution into a police state is gripping everywhere -- coast to coast.

When police resort to needless violence to fight crime, they, in turn, become criminals. One of the first studies of any beginning Political Science class are the definitions of varied types of societies and what earmarks them as being such; and one of the sure-fire signs of a totalitarian police state is the "might is right" concept, the smashing and hard nightstick, and the threat of confinement in a cellblock - usually for unfair and unjust reasons.

Fostering a crime-fighting culture in which violent uniformed criminals wearing badges are attacking, maiming, and oftentimes killing other criminals is mere vigilante justice. In many regards, it's even worse than a police state, since at least a police state is put in place to retain some semblance of order. But any more, in many places in the USA, there is no such thing. Everything has denigrated, dissolved and atrophied into bedlam, chaos and disarray.

And countless victims who are attacked and sometimes even killed by the police are hardly involved in egregious criminal acts. Many are like Eric Garner, who was allegedly "illegally trying to sell cigarettes," according to police reports. This is hardly material for America's Most Wanted. Garner's case probably wouldn't even have made it into eight-point type in the police blotter of a local shopper circulated in that particular area of the Big Apple. Such a minor crime is hardly even newsworthy.

Even if Garner was selling mass amounts of heroin or crack, he shouldn't have been put into a chokehold and subsequently murdered. Why? Because it is not allowed, that's why. The NYC Police Dept. is not sanctioned to use chokeholds to apprehend even the most diabolical and dangerous criminals.

There are a number of other cases of police brutality and wrongdoing circulating currently on Internet cop-watch websites. Like the previous two stories in this series, this article has been written as a hard-copy piece. There is no commentary included here since these excerpts and their links to articles, video clips, and news broadcasts say plenty and no editorializing is required.

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi (more...)

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