It is a true irony that at a time of historically low violent-crime rates in America, so many Americans are critical of police nationally.
According to a recent Pew Research Center/USA Today poll, Americans by a 2-to-1 margin say cops across the country "don't do a good job in holding officers accountable for misconduct, treating racial groups equally, and using the right amount of force."Dennis Gilman's video of last week's demonstration
The numbers vary when folks are asked about local police forces. And the racial and political party divides shake out as you would expect, with minorities and Democrats expressing far more disapproval of police performance.
Still, in the wake of the overreaction of cops in Ferguson, Missouri, "Officer Friendly" is more or less seen these days as "Officer Shoot First, Ask Questions Later."
New Times contributor Troy Farah's video of the same march
As longtime Phoenix activist Fronzo West, aka "The Fonz," likes to ask, "How do you call the cops on the cops?"
It's a perennial problem, one that the Fonz has been exposing for years just by pointing his video camera at police, and by driving around town in a van painted with the slogan "Fuck the Police." (See "Fonz Flop," April 2008.)
I've seen cops overreact to the Fonz, who is, despite his love of a certain Anglo-Saxon invective, a true gentleman and of no threat to anyone.
I've also seen them overreact with Phoenix videographer Dennis Gilman, who was at last Saturday's solidarity-with-Ferguson demonstration and scored some cool footage of the demonstrators and some of the speakers.
I particularly like the part where the demonstrators lay siege to the Channel 12 studio, with its window facing the street.
Hey, where's Brahm Resnik when you need him? Or that anchor dude with the caterpillar mustache?
Part of the reason the protesters were out had to do with the recent slaying of Michelle Cusseaux, a mentally ill woman, whom a Phoenix cop shot and killed after she came at him and other cops with a hammer, according to the Phoenix Police Department's account.
PPD Chief Garcia has turned over the case to the Arizona Department of Public Safety for review. But I suspect that the result will be the same.
I like and respect a lot of the cops I know. But some of the older ones tell me, confidentially, that there was a time when it was a point of pride for a cop to take care of a situation by going "hands on." Not so much these days, they say.
Conversely, I also have witnessed Phoenix police officers deal expertly with provocation and deescalate incidents that could have gotten much uglier.
This requires knowledge of human nature, a certain physical and mental confidence, and a respect for all individuals, even those who may be in your face.
It ain't easy. But to borrow a line from Orson Welles' brilliant film on cop misconduct Touch of Evil, "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."
Though peaceful, some of what's seen in Gilman's video and in a video by New Times contributor Troy Farah, may appear, well, cliched.
But that is not the case with the heartfelt speeches in Gilman's video by young African-American men, who know all too well the realities of undue scrutiny by law enforcement.
Toward the end of Gilman's video, one such young man tells of how his parents sat him down one day and told him that cops and others would treat him differently because of the color of his skin, that he must be aware of this.
"Let me tell you something, man," he tells the crowd. "If we keep doing this [kind of protesting], I guarantee you, I will not have to say [the same thing] to my children."
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Who watching Gilman's video would not hope that this young man is right?
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