Policing USA: Mostly Bad Apples Murdering Us

Too many nightmares covering cops starting 40 years ago, nothing changes, just the hardware!

What does it mean to protect? To incarcerate? To uphold the law? What does it mean to strap on a gun and badge and go sadistically and forcefully into the night looking for stray people to shoot like rats?

What’s it like to be part of some paramilitary force and let the vengeance of the thin blue line overwhelm an entire city block with bombs and dead bodies ripped from the child’s bed?

What is it to be Janet Reno and firebomb a compound of religious nuts? To be that punk deputy who shoots a Seattle Pike Place woodcarver because he comes at you with a carving knife while you sweat in your Kevlar vest and mounted 12 gauge shotgun and automatic side arm?

What is it like to go into Ruby Ridge and blow away a child? Wounded Knee, and blow away Indigenous activists?

It’s been a hate-hate relationship with cops all my life. From the days of an army brat in Paris, where gendarmes hit the news with their lead-lined capes and batons and swagger going after beatniks and then hippies. From the days as a teenager in Arizona, all those run-ins with Pima County deputies.

Didn’t like the youth amassing into the night around bonfires. Didn’t like the kids racing around the desert with our mini-bikes.

Time and time again, the police fear is like a Hitchcock movie, Alfred deathly afraid of the cops. Me, around M.P.s and border patrol agents, AFT, DEA, county and city cops, private security. Each and every time, me, police reporter first in Tucson, then along the US-Mexico border in Arizona, then New Mexico and then Texas. Each and every story, each and every hour spent with K-9 or SWAT, the cold hard fact of their overwhelming rotten to the core humanity was clear.

Let no one run at the mouth and say it’s one rotten apple in a barrel of shining Pippins. This is a species of humanity that I have witnessed first hand, from kid to beat newspaperman to protester, all of them, the chamber of horrors species that they are.

I’ve had the worst students in my many college classes as teacher the blood and guts wannabe cop, criminal justice major, wannabe border patrolman, FBI G-man.

Broken, mean, wanting reckoning, sadistic, anti-human, anti-democratic, dictatorial, and, well, natural born killers.

Imagine, 15, long hair, t-shirt and cut-offs, sandals and my 360 cc Bultaco, making a run in the desert, and two deputy sheriffs going after me as if I was one of the president’s murderers. No license plate. Guns drawn, telling me to hit the hardscrabble, or else.

Imagine, Tucson, Arizona, and the first real encounter with the badge and the gun, pushing at me with .357 might, 15 and long-haired and surly, and they are there, telling me to hit the dirt with hands locked on my head, or else.

I was yelling at the 5 pm traffic, trying to get someone to stop, to bear witness. Imagine, 15, and they threaten one passerby who did stop. I spit out my name, my mom’s name, phone number, address. Citizen X told to fuck off or else.

Imagine, 15 years later, El Paso, cops raping people late at night, rural locales, traffic stops, boyfriend or husband forced to witness. El Paso County Sheriffs. Imagine, the beat reporter, me, older, Central America hard, already thrown in jails in Guatemala, Juarez, one in Panama. Imagine, me, going to these killers, and the big thin line threatening me, newspaperman.

I had already cut my teeth in my early twenties in Willcox and Nogales, the hard desert of 13 Salvadorans dead from their plight crossing Organ Pipe National Monument. All those nights with the police scanner, all those mysterious bodies skeletal in the desert, in some gully.

Imagine, Juarez, the disappeared, the raped and body splayed women, the torture of the cops, federalies, military, drug lord capitans?

I have seen the killer and he is them, first time, 18 years old, and covering a story on a vet, Vietnam, shot eight times in his front yard – off his meds, Friday night, lots of chattering, his own property, and a Buck knife, while two deputies shoot him over the fence. Eight shots, and the mother on her knees asking why she even called 911 for advice?

Police throwing me in paddy wagons as Planned Parenthood (pro) protester. NAFTA, me and dozens thrown in jail, on the US-Mexico bridge. In jail for protesting the first Gulf War massacre. In jail in Seattle against BoA, Amazon and the US of the One Percent.

I was scared, yes, in Guatemala, outside of Antigua, but, here, in the USA, 1995, on my way to a flag raising, 20th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, something I had headed up, a huge Vietnam War remembrance, artists, musicians, poets, historians. Brought in Le Ly Hayslip, Dan Yen, John McAfee, and Tim O’Brien.

I was invited to be part of a sunrise ceremony. Running late. Idiot on the freeway slowing me down. Two strategic fingers in the air.

Bam, two cars, bumper banging me. Guys with guns drawn. No ID, little lights going off under their engine frames.

Imagine, illegal lane change they hit me with, but took me into jail. Impounded vehicle ($200 to get it out). I was stuck in a warrant hell. They had spent the weekend serving warrants and busting people for not paying their fines, their shitty tickets, what have you.

It took me 28 hours to be processed. Met two students in the overcrowded holding pen. One old guy went into diabetic shock, I helped out, and then the penal guards, Gestapo, Abu Ghraib to be, came after me when I helped the old man.

This is the war on civility, on protest, on challenging their warped and armed ways. Can you imagine, being booked for illegal lane change, when undercover fucks pull out their guns and tell me to hit the deck. I challenged that assertion. Remember, El Paso, TX, 1995. Tons of cocaine in safe houses. You betcha I am going to believe the first asshole at dawn pulling me over in unmarked cars in El Paso is a drug dealer. I was a college professor and newspaper person, and they did not care.

Handcuffed, thrown in the back, guys laughing, speaking Spanish until they found out I spoke Spanish. Trying to charge me with terroristic threats while I was in the back and they were humiliating Vietnam War vets. I told them to ticket me and release me. But, they had a plan – put inside the county jail after one of their big warrant pile-on’s.

I remember being booked, and the two big burly guys there, laughing at me. I remember, because three months later, luckily, the same fucks had been charged with some of those late-night rapes.

A culture of shooting, power, bars and authority. This is not a few fucking bad apples. I was a police reporter for years. I had to swallow pride and truth to listen to these pigs just to get the inside lead on story x or story y.

They are a gang, but meaner, like mad-dog rapists, these pigs in blue or in black, in the guard tower or running guns to the contras.

They are cut from the same cloth, G. Gordon Liddy or Ollie North. Same rotten maimers.

I bring this up now, though some of my past writings have touched upon the nature of violence and the victimization of youth, the Black-Chicano lives matter. Even Fox News covered the cover-up. This is typical, not atypical, James Brown, murdered in that same jail I covered as reporter and found myself in several times, with nuns and priests, protesting Ollie and NAFTA and the entire US Murdered Incorporated.

Published on May 15, 2015

Assault of Fort Bliss Soldier Sgt James Brown inside El Paso County Jail by Riot Police

Heartbreaking Video Shows Active Duty Soldier Slowly Die as Riot Police Needlessly Assault Him

KFOX14 exclusive: video obtained of Fort Bliss soldier shows moments before his death while in custody

EL PASO, Texas – An active-duty Fort Bliss soldier self-reported for a two day DWI sentence at the El Paso County Jail in 2012 but died before he saw the light of day or his family again.

In July 2012, KFOX14 anchor Erika Castillo reported on the story of the mysterious circumstances surrounded the death of Sgt. James Brown while he was in jail.

KFOX14 fought all the way to the Texas attorney general to obtain the video to learn what happened to Brown before dying.

The graphic video obtained shows the moments before the death of Brown.

Warning: The footage obtained by KFOX14 contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.

Brown served two tours of combat duty in Iraq. The decorated 26-year-old was on active duty at Fort Bliss in July 2012, when he left his family for the weekend to self-report for a two day DWI sentence at the El Paso County Jail. When he checked in, jail records show that Brown reported in writing to the jail that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

Brown’s mother said when her son checked into the jail, he contacted her.

“He said they’re trying to make me stay seven days instead of two days, so i just want to pay the court fine and get out of here,” said Dinette Robinson-Scott.

I’ve got a good friend, ex-Marine, anti-war, big, fun, my buddy, former student, now hitting so many ceilings of a PTSD affected vet. Battle of Fallujah, 28, no jobs, fried brain, body shot through, no VA support, cops in Spokane, trigger happy, ready to put a few bullets through his head.

Or pushed off the Monroe Street Bridge. This is not some rare bad apple in the barrel. These people are the same, DNA entwined in sadomasochism, dictatorial, mean, rapists, homophobes, broken, in uniform, so many murderers out there, legions of them, loved by the Republicans, the Democrats, the American people.

This is what I am bringing up. My own PTSD, all those intersections with cops in the American West. Spokane. Seattle. Mexico. Central America. Overseas. Europe.

They are wrong, and we don’t need no stinkin’ badge to go against them. We should go against them. How? Think Baltimore, not some little kayak float in Seattle (this Sunday) to protest Shell in the Arctic! Really, we are selfie freaks, navel gazers, playing with fire — the one  percent, big energy, the other 19 percent — with urine-filled balloons.

Activists in kayaks protest Saturday near the Polar Pioneer, Shell’s giant oil rig, which is moored at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Greg Huyler, a 51-year-old scuba diver from Yakima, Washington, stood on the sidewalk and shook his head in opposition to the event.

“It’s a bunch of crap,” he said. “The problem is, all of these kayaks are petroleum products, and they’re going to gripe about drilling for oil. And 90 percent of them drove here in cars that use petroleum products.”

Look at this crap, this murder, this El Paso smile. Cops, and my own PTSD raging inside.


Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.