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Forum Post: Cop's History an Issue in Toy-Gun Slaying

Posted 8 years ago on Nov. 29, 2013, 3:43 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Cop's History an Issue in Toy-Gun Slaying

Friday, 29 November 2013 01:12 By Dennis J Bernstein, Consortium News | Report


The Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff, who shot and killed a popular Latino eighth-grader holding a toy gun, has a history of overreaction that dates back years, according to an attorney for the slain youth’s family who has filed a federal lawsuit for wrongful death.

On Oct. 22, Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus, a seasoned marksman with 24 years experience in the department, shouted to the boy, Andy Lopez, to drop the toy gun, a replica of an AK-47, and – as the boy turned toward Gelhaus and his partner in a police car – Gelhaus claimed to feel threatened and riddled the 13-year-old with seven bullets.

The incident occurred in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon near Lopez’s home on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, California. Santa Rosa District Attorney, the Sheriff’s department, the Santa Rosa Police, the FBI and even the Mexican Consulate are investigating or monitoring the investigation.

Lopez family attorney Arnoldo Casillas told me in an interview that people have been coming out of the woodwork to share stories about their encounters with Gelhaus, who is also an Iraq War veteran and a commentator for S.W.A.T Magazine. Casillas said he has debriefed and taken depositions from a number of witnesses with direct knowledge of the shooting or alleged abuses by Gelhaus, “With the media coverage and the tsunami of attention that the Lopez lawsuit has received,” said Casillas, “folks are coming to us from everywhere with stories about his repeated instances of recklessness. We are recording stories as far back to the mid-Nineties that indicate his reckless use of firearms … and the shocking part about all of this is that he is the firearms expert, the instructor. In other words Gelhaus lays down the foundation as to how other sheriff deputies are going to be exercising the use of force and that is truly shocking.”

Casillas said five eyewitnesses – four people in a vehicle immediately behind the patrol car and a man in front – said the fatal incident began when the patrol car accelerated into the intersection and crossed into the opposing lane of traffic. The police officers screamed out a command as they were exiting the cruiser and opened fire on Lopez, possibly in a matter of only two or three seconds, Casillas said, adding:

“Our forensic evidence suggests that Andy was shot as he was turning to his right, as the officers called out to him. The first bullet hit in the chest, literally went right through his heart. And it killed him. The police officer continued to shoot as Andy fell, and as Andy was on the ground.”

According to police reports, it was 11 seconds between the time that the squad car called in to headquarters about a suspected sighting of someone carrying a gun and the fatal shooting. More crucial, in terms of the incident, was the amount of time that elapsed between the time Gelhaus called out to Lopez and opened fired.

“We do know that the important sequence, the calling out a command to the shooting, was just two to three seconds,” Casillas said. “The two women behind the patrol car said that they [the deputies] were shooting as they were getting out of the patrol car. Andy wasn’t given a chance to respond or react.”

As Gelhaus opened fire, the deputy with him, who was driving the car and who did not open fire, said the shooting was over in just a few seconds, even before he had time to move from behind the wheel and take cover behind his door.

The legal question in the aftermath of the slaying is whether Gelhaus, a master marksmen and former military trainer in Iraq, reacted rashly without giving Lopez any reasonable chance to respond to the police order and without properly assessing the actual danger of the situation from his position behind his door of the patrol car.

Reckless Behavior

In any legal proceeding, Gelhaus’s record in his use of a gun as a police officer will be relevant. Lawyer Casillas said some witnesses have recounted what they consider Gelhaus’s “history of reckless and hyper-aggressive policing.”

Casillas said one troubling account of Gelhaus’s quick-draw mentality was an incident in the 1990s in which Gelhaus was called to the scene of a dispute between neighbors. After Gelhaus arrived, one of the neighbors reported that “Gelhaus literally chased her around her truck pointing a gun at her, while she was holding a 2- or 3-year-old child in her arms,” Casillas said.

Jeffery Westbrook, a program manager at an information technology company and resident of Santa Rosa, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Gelhaus pulled a gun on him twice during a routine traffic stop without provocation, just two months before the killing of Andy Lopez.

According to the report, Westbrook said “he was mistreated by Deputy Erick Gelhaus after being pulled over Aug. 21 in Cotati for failing to signal a lane change in his BMW. The interaction troubled Westbrook so much that he recalled asking Gelhaus at one point, ‘Sir, is there something wrong with you?’”

Westbrook said, “I felt like I was watching somebody I needed to help,”

According to the Chronicle’s report, Westbrook was traveling south on Highway 101 when Gelhaus stopped them and then approached the BMW from the passenger side. “There wasn’t much room on the side of the highway, Westbrook said, so he rolled down his window and offered to move the car. That’s when Gelhaus pulled a gun on him and yelled at him to turn the car off, Westbrook said. He said he responded that the car was already off.

“According to Westbrook, Gelhaus returned to his cruiser to write a ticket. Several minutes later, the driver said, Gelhaus asked him to walk back to his cruiser and then pulled a gun on him a second time, asking him if he had any weapons before frisking him.”

After the traffic incident, Westbrook contacted Gelhaus’s supervisor about concerns for the deputy’s “emotional stability.” A meeting was planned but it was canceled the day after Gelhaus killed Lopez. One of the troubling questions raised by the Lopez shooting is whether veterans returning from the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where American soldiers often find themselves in dangerous situations and develop a tendency to open fire at the first hint of danger, are getting adequate counseling or screening before they begin serving as police officers patrolling U.S. streets.

Brian Brushaun, a former member of the Military Police who lives in the neighborhood where Andy Lopez was killed, just nine houses down from the field where the shooting occurred, said the deadly encounter recalled how soldiers might confront an insurgent in a war zone.

“The military are perfectly trained to kill people,” said Brushaun. “They are really good at it. We have the best killing military in the world, in my opinion. They’re also trained to capture, they are also peacekeepers. I was in during Desert One and I was in during peacekeeping and I had to draw my weapon on two suspects. I followed proper rules of engagement. I assessed the threat. I made sure stuff worked out correctly, pretty much. No one ended up needing to be shot.”

Brushaun said he worries that some combat veterans coming home and getting jobs as police officers could turn city neighborhoods into kill zones.

Gelhaus, who was put on administrative leave, is considered a seasoned weapons expert, firearms instructor, veteran trainer in the Sheriff’s Department, and a range master with extensive training in firearms.

According to his own bio, Gelhaus was an infantry non-commissioned officer in the California National Guard: “My assignments included operations assistant for a 600+ soldier unit, small arms trainer, and squad leader during a combat employment. While in Iraq, in addition to supervising a heavy weapons squad and being responsible for the soldiers and the equipment, I testified in Iraq courts during the prosecution of insurgents.”

Besides his training and other gun expertise, Gelhaus is a columnist and contributor to S.W.A.T Magazine and various other gun-culture forums that deal with the use of deadly force by police. He described his work with law enforcement as a “Contact sport.”

In a 2008 column, entitled “Ambush Reaction in the Kill Zone,” Gelhaus reflected on the need to possess the “mean gene” to survive in “the kill zone,” adding that “Today is the day you may need to kill someone to go home. If you cannot turn on the Mean Gene for yourself, who will?”

Many community members interviewed for this article are not so sure that there will be any real justice for Andy Lopez. Many are continuing to organize protests at various law enforcement agencies and hold teach-ins about the facts of the case and the need to have legal structures that hold law enforcement accountable.

Attorney Casillas said he is very concerned that local law enforcement does not appear to be doing a thorough investigation, treating the killing as just an unfortunate accident.

“What is shocking,” said Casillas, “and what everybody is worried about – we’re certainly worried about it – is that there investigation appears to be superficial. … The witnesses who were there at the time of the shooting weren’t contacted until we brought it to the media’s attention and then … media brought it to the police department. There appear to be witnesses that we have spoken to that the police department hasn’t contacted. I hate to call it a white-wash, that’s hyperbole, but you really have to question just how critically they are evaluating the situation.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The End of Childhood in the Era of the Emerging American Police State

Thursday, 19 December 2013 10:36 By John W Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute | Op-Ed


It wouldn’t be a week in America without another slew of children being punished for childish behavior under the regime of zero tolerance which plagues our nation’s schools. Here are some of the latest incidents.

In Pennsylvania, a ten-year-old boy was suspended for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination. Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend “bow” and “shoot” an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like an imaginary gun and “shot” at Johnny. Principal John Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.

In Utah, a seven-year-old boy was arrested and berated by police because he ran away from school. The boy showed up at his mother’s house late in the afternoon, at which point he explained that he had left the school of his own accord. The mother called the school and explained what happened, at which point the principal decided to call the police, despite knowing the boy was in the protection of his mother. An officer arrived at the house, told the boy to “straighten up,” took him outside, handcuffed him, and yelled at him saying, “Is this the life you want?”

In Colorado, a six-year-old boy was suspended and accused of sexual harassment for kissing the hand of a girl in his class whom he had a crush on. Child psychologist Sandy Wurtele commented on the case noting that for first graders like Hunter Yelton things like kissing are a normal part of development, and that the school’s reaction sends mixed messages to developing minds. After a good deal of negative publicity, Canon City Schools Superintendent Robin Gooldy decided to alter the offense from “sexual harassment” to “misconduct.”

In New York, three students were arrested while waiting for a bus to arrive and take them to a basketball scrimmage. The three were part of a group of a dozen basketball players who were waiting on a downtown sidewalk as per their coach’s instructions, when they were approached by a police officer who demanded they disperse. They explained that they were waiting for a bus, but the officer decided to arrest them anyway. Even when the coach arrived and explained to the officer that the boys were simply waiting for a bus so they could get to their scrimmage, the officer would not relent. He actually threatened to arrest the coach as well.

While any normal society would condemn all these acts as absurd and harmful to young people, we live in a world in which parents, teachers, and students have all been conditioned to fear the slightest bending of the rules, even when it’s obvious that no harm has been done and that no crime has been committed. We are living in the age of fear and paranoia, an age which threatens the very core concepts of childhood development, and even the basic facets of our democratic society.

Add to the execution of zero tolerance policies the phenomenon of “lockdowns” of public schools, which are sometimes prompted by legitimate threats, but more often by nearby domestic disturbances and false alarms, in which students are corralled into closets and hallways, met with police officers armed to the hilt, searched by drug-sniffing dogs, and generally made to feel as if they are living in a war zone. This trend of acclimating children to a mindset in which they should always be fearful, on edge, and deferential to authority is compounded by so-called “drills” in which police officers pretend they are spree shooters. Dahlia Lithwick, writing for Slate, notes that these bizarre attempts to prepare kids for an active shooter situation do not really prepare students for emergency situations, but rather simply frighten them.

In fact, their true purpose, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, seems to be simply to acclimate children to the mindset of paranoia and absolute deference to authority which has taken hold of the American populace at large. Children, who are naturally suspect of illegitimate authority, are being conditioned to accept any and all orders from on high, even those which they inherently know are wrong.

In the face of this madness, some schools have begun scaling back the zero tolerance regime. For example, schools in Broward County, Florida, which saw over 1,000 student arrests in 2011, have begun a policy that de-emphasizes arrests, expulsions, and suspensions in favor of counseling and keeping kids that run into trouble in school.

As Broward County Schools superintendent Robert W. Runcie noted, “A knee-jerk reaction for minor offenses, suspending and expelling students, this is not the business we should be in. We are not accepting that we need to have hundreds of students getting arrested and getting records that impact their lifelong chances to get a job, go into the military, get financial aid.”

Since implementing the new policies, “school-based arrests have dropped by 41 percent, and suspensions, which in 2011 added up to 87,000 out of 258,000 students, are down 66 percent from the same period in 2012.” Still, most school districts across the country maintain a strict adherence to zero tolerance policy.

Alongside the zero tolerance mess is the general censorship of student viewpoints when discussing topics which are not approved by school administrators. For example, when a Pennsylvania student newspaper decided to run an editorial explaining why they found the term “Redskin,” the nickname of the school’s athletic teams, insensitive, and why they would no longer use the name in the school newspaper, the school administration reprimanded the students and demanded they continue to use the term. In another case, a student journalist in Virginia was reprimanded for writing a column on sexuality-based bullying, also known as “slut-shaming,” because the article contained words and phrases such as “sexual” and “breast-feeding.”

Considering students in high school are on the cusp of adulthood, legally and otherwise, the attempts to censor them when they engage in debates that are occurring on a daily basis on television and in the newspapers isn’t simply obnoxious, but threatens the integrity of society as well. If students are being taught to self-censor, they will be ineffective citizens. They will internalize ideas contrary to basic American principles, namely that all people should be allowed to speak their minds as they see fit.

In fact, according to the Knight Foundation, students who are taught on the value of the First Amendment are more likely to agree with statements such as “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions” or “newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval.” However, for those who’ve not received such instruction, they seem more doubtful of the value of free speech.

Thus, one can easily see how the zero tolerance/censorship regime which dominates American public education can easily translate into a disaster for civil society at large in the coming years.

We’ve chosen to terminate natural childhood development in favor of strict adherence to authority and muting unique, interesting, and valid viewpoints in favor of maintaining the status quo. Worse than this, however, is the fact that we’re setting ourselves up for the complete destruction of our democratic society and our democratic institutions in favor of an authoritarian bureaucratic apparatus which manages a population of automatons, unable to think for themselves.

Call it the end of childhood, call it the end of innocence, call it the end of imagination. What it will eventually amount to is the termination of freedom in the United States.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

America's Child Soldiers: JROTC and the Militarizing of America

Monday, 16 December 2013 10:09 By Ann Jones, TomDispatch | News Analysis


Junior ROTC drill competition in Mongovermy, AL, 2008. (Photo: Scott*)Congress surely meant to do the right thing when, in the fall of 2008, it passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA). The law was designed to protect kids worldwide from being forced to fight the wars of Big Men. From then on, any country that coerced children into becoming soldiers was supposed to lose all U.S. military aid. It turned out, however, that Congress -- in its rare moment of concern for the next generation -- had it all wrong. In its greater wisdom, the White House found countries like Chad and Yemen so vital to the national interest of the United States that it preferred to overlook what happened to the children in their midst.

As required by CSPA, this year the State Department once again listed 10 countries that use child soldiers: Burma (Myanmar), the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Seven of them were scheduled to receive millions of dollars in U.S. military aid as well as what’s called “U.S. Foreign Military Financing.” That’s a shell game aimed at supporting the Pentagon and American weapons makers by handing millions of taxpayer dollars over to such dodgy “allies,” who must then turn around and buy “services” from the Pentagon or “materiel” from the usual merchants of death. You know the crowd: Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, Northrop Grumman, and so on.

Here was a chance for Washington to teach a set of countries to cherish their young people, not lead them to the slaughter. But in October, as it has done every year since CSPA became law, the White House again granted whole or partial “waivers” to five countries on the State Department’s “do not aid” list: Chad, South Sudan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia. Too bad for the young -- and the future -- of those countries. But look at it this way: Why should Washington help the children of Sudan or Yemen escape war when it spares no expense right here at home to press our own impressionable, idealistic, ambitious American kids into military “service”?

It should be no secret that the United States has the biggest, most efficiently organized, most effective system for recruiting child soldiers in the world. With uncharacteristic modesty, however, the Pentagon doesn’t call it that. Its term is “youth development program.”

Pushed by multiple high-powered, highly paid public relations and advertising firms under contract to the Department of Defense, the program is a many splendored thing. Its major public face is the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps or JROTC.

What makes this child-soldier recruiting program so striking is that the Pentagon carries it out in plain sight in hundreds and hundreds of private, military, and public high schools across the U.S.

Unlike the notorious West African warlords Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor (both brought before international tribunals on charges of war crimes), the Pentagon doesn’t actually kidnap children and drag them bodily into battle. It seeks instead to make its young “cadets” what John Stuart Mill once termed “willing slaves,” so taken in by the master’s script that they accept their parts with a gusto that passes for personal choice. To that end, JROTC works on their not-yet-fully-developed minds, instilling what the program’s textbooks call “patriotism” and “leadership,” as well as a reflexive attention to authoritarian commands.

The scheme is much more sophisticated -- so much more "civilized" -- than any ever devised in Liberia or Sierra Leone, and it works. The result is the same, however: kids get swept into soldiering, a job they will not be free to leave, and in the course of which they may be forced to commit spirit-breaking atrocities. When they start to complain or crack under pressure, in the U.S. as in West Africa, out come the drugs.

The JROTC program, still spreading in high schools across the country, costs U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It has cost some unknown number of taxpayers their children.

The Acne and Braces Brigades

I first stumbled upon JROTC kids a few years ago at a Veterans Day parade in Boston. Before it got underway, I wandered among the uniformed groups taking their places along the Boston Common. There were some old geezers sporting the banners of their American Legion posts, a few high school bands, and some sharp young men in smart dress uniforms: greater Boston’s military recruiters. Then there were the kids. The acne and braces brigades, 14- and 15-year-olds in military uniforms carrying rifles against their shoulders. Some of the girl groups sported snazzy white gloves.

Far too many such groups, with far too many underage children, stretched the length of Boston Common. They represented all branches of the military and many different local communities, though almost all of them were brown or black in hue: African Americans, Hispanics, the children of immigrants from Vietnam and other points South. Just last month in New York City, I watched similarly color-coded JROTC squads march up Fifth Avenue on Veterans’ Day. One thing JROTC is not is a rainbow coalition. In Boston, I asked a 14-year-old boy why he had joined JROTC. He wore a junior Army uniform and toted a rifle nearly as big as himself. He said, “My dad, he left us, and my mom, she works two jobs, and when she gets home, well, she’s not big on structure. But they told us at school you gotta have a lot of structure if you want to get somewhere. So I guess you could say I joined up for that.” A group of girls, all Army JROTC members, told me they took classes with the boys but had their own all-girl (all-black) drill team that competed against others as far away as New Jersey. They showed me their medals and invited me to their high school to see their trophies. They, too, were 14 or 15. They jumped up and down like the enthusiastic young teens they were as we talked. One said, “I never got no prizes before.”

Their excitement took me back. When I was their age, growing up in the Midwest, I rose before daybreak to march around a football field and practice close formation maneuvers in the dark before the school day began. Nothing would have kept me from that “structure,” that “drill,” that “team,” but I was in a marching band and the weapon I carried was a clarinet. JROTC has entrapped that eternal youthful yearning to be part of something bigger and more important than one’s own pitiful, neglected, acne-spattered self. JROTC captures youthful idealism and ambition, twists it, trains it, arms it, and sets it on the path to war.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

A Little History

The U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was conceived as part of the National Defense Act of 1916 in the midst of World War I. In the aftermath of that war, however, only six high schools took up the military's offer of equipment and instructors. A senior version of ROTC, was made compulsory on many state college and university campuses, despite the then-controversial question of whether the government could compel students to take military training.

By 1961, ROTC had become an optional program, popular at some schools, but unwelcome on others. It soon disappeared altogether from the campuses of many elite colleges and progressive state universities, pushed out by protest against the war in Vietnam and pulled out by the Pentagon, which insisted on maintaining discriminatory policies (especially regarding sexual preference and gender) outlawed in university codes of conduct. When it gave up “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 and offered a menu of substantial research grants for such institutions, elite universities like Harvard and Yale welcomed the military back with unbecoming deference. During ROTC’s exile from such institutions, however, it put down roots on college campuses in states that made no fuss about discrimination, while the Pentagon expanded its recruitment program in high schools. Almost half a century after Army JROTC was established, the Reserve Officers Training Corps Vitalization Act of 1964 opened such junior training to all branches of the military. What’s more, the number of JROTC units nationwide, previously capped at 1,200, climbed rapidly until 2001, when the very idea of imposing limits on the program disappeared.

The reason was clear enough. In 1973, the Nixon administration discarded the draft in favor of a standing professional “all-volunteer” army. But where were those professionals to be found? And how exactly were they to be persuaded to “volunteer”? Since World War II, ROTC programs at institutions of higher education had provided about 60% of commissioned officers. But an army needs foot soldiers.

Officially, the Pentagon claims that JROTC is not a recruiting program. Privately, it never considered it to be anything else. Army JROTC now describes itself as having “evolved from a source of enlisted recruits and officer candidates to a citizenship program devoted to the moral, physical, and educational uplift of American youth.” Yet former Defense Secretary William Cohen, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in 2000, named JROTC “one of the best recruiting devices that we could have.” With that unacknowledged mission in hand, the Pentagon pushed for a goal first advanced in 1991 by Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: the establishment of 3,500 JROTC units to “uplift” students in high schools nationwide. The plan was to expand into "educationally and economically deprived areas.” The shoddy schools of the inner cities, the rust belt, the deep South, and Texas became rich hunting grounds. By the start of 2013, the Army alone was recycling 4,000 retired officers to run its programs in 1,731 high schools. All together, Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine JROTC units now flourish in 3,402 high schools nationwide -- 65% of them in the South -- with a total enrollment of 557,129 kids.

Getting With the Program

Here’s how the program works. The Department of Defense spends several hundred million dollars -- $365 million in 2013 -- to provide uniforms, Pentagon-approved textbooks, and equipment to JROTC, as well as part of the instructors’ salaries. Those instructors, assigned by the military (not the schools), are retired officers. They continue to collect federal retirement pay, even though the schools are required to cover their salaries at levels they would receive on active duty. The military then reimburses the school for about half of that hefty pay, but the school is still out a bundle.

Ten years ago, the American Friends Service Committee found that the true cost of JROTC programs to local school districts was “often much higher -- in some cases more than double -- the cost claimed by the Department of Defense.” In 2004, local school districts were shelling out “more than $222 million in personnel costs alone.” Several principals who spoke to me about the program praised the Pentagon for subsidizing the school budget, but in this matter they evidently don’t grasp their own school finances. The fact is that public schools offering JROTC programs actually subsidize the Pentagon’s recruitment drive. In fact, a JROTC class costs schools (and taxpayers) significantly more than would a regular physical education or American history course -- for both of which it is often considered a suitable substitute.

Local schools have no control over the Pentagon’s prescribed JROTC curricula, which are inherently biased toward militarism. Many school systems simply adopt JROTC programs without so much as a peek at what the students will be taught. The American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, and other civic groups have compiled evidence that these classes are not only more costly than regular school courses, but also inferior in quality.

What else but inferior quality might be expected from self-serving textbooks written by competing branches of the military and used by retired military men with no teaching qualifications or experience? For one thing, neither the texts nor the instructors teach the sort of critical thinking central to the best school curricula today. Instead, they inculcate obedience to authority, inspire fear of “enemies,” and advance the primacy of military might in American foreign policy. Civic groups have raised a number of other objections to JROTC, ranging from discriminatory practices -- against gays, immigrants, and Muslims, for example -- to dangerous ones, such as bringing guns into schools (of all places). Some units even set up shooting ranges where automatic rifles and live ammunition are used. JROTC embellishes the dangerous mystique of such weapons, making them objects to covet, embrace, and jump at the chance to use.

In its own defense, the program publicizes a selling point widely accepted across the United States: that it provides "structure," keeps kids from dropping out of school, and turns boys (and now girls) of "troubled" background into "men" who, without JROTC to save them (and the rest of us from them), would become junkies or criminals or worse. Colin Powell, the first ROTC grad ever to rise to the military’s top job, peddled just this line in his memoir My American Journey. "Inner-city kids," he wrote, "many from broken homes, [find] stability and role models in Junior ROTC."

No evidence exists to prove these claims, however, apart from student testimonials like that offered by the 14-year-old who told me he joined up for “structure.” That kids (and their parents) fall for this sales pitch is a measure of their own limited options. The great majority of students find better, more life-affirming “structure” in school itself through academic courses, sports, choirs, bands, science or language clubs, internships -- you name it -- in schools where such opportunities exist. Yet it is precisely in schools with such programs that administrators, teachers, parents, and kids working together are most likely to succeed in keeping JROTC out. It is left to the “economically and educationally deprived” school systems targeted by the Pentagon to cut such “frills” and blow their budgets on a colonel or two who can offer students in need of “stability and role models” a promising, though perhaps very short, future as soldiers.

School Days

In one such Boston inner city school, predominantly black, I sat in on JROTC classes where kids watched endless films of soldiers on parade, then had a go at it themselves in the school gym, rifles in hand. (I have to admit that they could march far better than squads of the Afghan National Army, which I’ve also observed, but is that something to be proud of?) Since those classes often seemed to consist of hanging out, students had lots of time to chat with the Army recruiter whose desk was conveniently located in the JROTC classroom.

They chatted with me, too. A 16-year-old African American girl, who was first in her class and had already signed up for the Army, told me she would make the military her career. Her instructor -- a white colonel she regarded as the father she never had at home -- had led the class to believe that “our war” would go on for a very long time, or as he put it, “until we’ve killed every last Muslim on Earth.” She wanted to help save America by devoting her life to that “big job ahead.”

Stunned, I blurted out, “But what about Malcolm X?” He grew up in Boston and a boulevard not far from the school was named in his honor. “Wasn’t he a Muslim?” I asked.

“Oh no, ma’am,” she said. “Malcolm X was an American.”

A senior boy, who had also signed up with the recruiter, wanted to escape the violence of city streets. He joined up shortly after one of his best friends, caught in the crossfire of somebody else’s fight, was killed in a convenience store just down the block from the school. He told me, “I’ve got no future here. I might as well be in Afghanistan.” He thought his chances of survival would be better there, but he worried about the fact that he had to finish high school before reporting for “duty.” He said, “I just hope I can make it to the war.” What kind of school system gives boys and girls such “choices”? What kind of country?

What goes on in schools in your town? Isn’t it time you found out?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by Narley (272) 8 years ago

JROTC are not child soldiers. More like the Boy Scouts with better uniforms.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Five Unnecessary SWAT Team Raids Gone Terribly Wrong

Sunday, 15 December 2013 11:55 By Kevin Mathews, Care2 | Report


If you’ve noticed that police forces are becoming increasingly militarized lately, it’s not just your imagination. In the past two decades, SWAT team activity has increased by 1,500%. It’s not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone. The problem is not contained to urban areas, either. A full 80% of towns with 25,000 to 50,000 residents now have their own SWAT teams, up from just 13% in the 1980s.

The Baltimore Sun did an analysis of SWAT deployment in Maryland and found the militarized team was sent out nearly five times each day. Only 6% of SWAT-involved incidents were for extreme emergency situations (bank robberies, barricades, hostage holding) – most were for search warrants or apprehending suspects involved in trivial matters like misdemeanors.

This shift toward a heavy reliance on SWAT teams does not fulfill the mission of “protecting and serving.” If anything, the violent tactics put everyone – including bystanders – in more danger. Let’s not understate the psychology of the situation either – when you dress police in war gear, they’re going to feel like soldiers out for a kill, not officers of peace.

Here are five examples when the SWAT team was wholly unnecessary:

  1. Slaying a Marine for Unsubstantiated Drug Suspicions

U.S. Marine Jose Guerena awoke one morning to hear noise outside of his house; believing he was being robbed, he hid his wife and kid in the closet and grabbed a gun for defense. It turns out, however, a SWAT team had gathered to search Guerena’s house for drugs due to having a family member involved in illicit activities. Notably, police acknowledged that no evidence was ever found to connect Guerena to selling drugs – including in the two-year police investigation leading up to the raid.

Within ten seconds of entering the house, the SWAT team shot at Guerena 71 times, hitting him a fatal 22 times. Though SWAT officials would later attempt to claim Guerena shot first, evidence proved that he never fired his rifle. Ultimately, the government admitted it was wrong and agreed to pay $3.4 million, but the payout was not accompanied by job terminations or policy changes, of course.

  1. Killing a Baby Deer

When authorities learned that a young deer, Giggles, was being nursed back to health at a no-kill animal shelter in Wisconsin, a heavily armed SWAT team busted into the shelter. Apparently, state law prevents people from keeping wildlife, and the SWAT team took their job very seriously… by euthanizing Giggles, who would have otherwise been sent to a wildlife sanctuary the next day. In trying to justify the excessive force, a spokesperson compared the deer raid to a “drug bust.”

  1. Copyright Infringement

When Atlanta police thought that DJ Drama might be involved in illegal music piracy, they didn’t hesitate to bring out the big guns – literally. A SWAT team raided DJ Drama’s studio as he worked at the request of the RIAA. Yes, even copyright law is pursued with militarized police now.

Authorities later attempted to justify their extreme response by explaining that “bootleggers” generally keep drugs and weapons on hand. Granted, nothing of the sort was found in the studio, but you can never be too careful when it comes to potential copyright infringement.

  1. Incorrect Drug Bust Ends With Dead Dogs

When police intercepted a large package containing marijuana, they decided to let the package ship and catch the purchaser in the act. Seeing a package addressed to his wife, Cheye Calvo brought it into his house and promptly watched as a SWAT team raided his home and shot his two dogs.

Later, it would be revealed that a drug dealing FedEx employee was putting unsuspecting parties’ addresses on drug shipments to more easily transport the goods. Although the Calvo family had no involvement in the drug transaction, because the police chose to employ unnecessary tactics to pursue a non-violent situation without even having the basic facts straight, the Calvos were forced to watch both of their beloved canines die on the ground.

  1. SWAT Officer Dies

These scenarios are dangerous for SWAT members, too. After police were tipped off that Ryan Frederick was growing drugs in his garage, a Virginia SWAT team raided his home. Hearing people breaking down his door, Frederick fired a shot at what he believed to be an intruder. It turned out that Frederick was growing tree saplings in his garage, not marijuana, and had police knocked on the door and entered with a warrant in a normal fashion, the misunderstanding could have been resolved peacefully. Instead, the officer died and now Frederick is serving ten years in prison for manslaughter… even though the police should probably take more responsibility in this mistake.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] -1 points by Narley (272) 8 years ago

You forgot to mention that SWAT teams save lives. There may have been some screw-ups, but they a lot of people owe their lives to their bravery.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Family of Unarmed Man Shot Dead by LAPD Wants $20 Million


By Andrew Blankstein

NBC News

The family of an unarmed man who was shot and killed by officers following a pursuit of his Corvette through Los Angeles has filed a $20 million civil claim against the LAPD, the family’s lawyer announced Friday.

Dale Galipo, a veteran civil rights lawyer with a long track record of victories in wrongful death suits against Southern California police departments, said the deadly shooting of Brian Newt Beaird, 51, last Friday night involving three LAPD officers was “malicious” and “criminal.”

Beaird led L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies, the California Highway Patrol and the LAPD on an hour-long chase that started in Cudahy and ended in downtown Los Angeles just past 10 p.m. After he slammed into a Nissan at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Los Angeles Street, he exited the car and tried to walk away. According to a preliminary departmental review, LAPD officers then fired 22 shots at him. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. No gun was found at the scene.

Galipo, who appeared with the dead man’s brother and father outside downtown police headquarters, said it was fortunate that the incident was caught on video, which he said showed Beaird was “clearly unarmed” and “clearly not reaching in his waistband or pocket.”

John Beaird, Beaird’s brother, said his brother had been on the phone with their father during the chase, who urged him to pull over. For whatever reason, perhaps his fear of police, he did not.

Beaird acknowledged that his brother “made a lot of bad decisions that day.”

“But his right to due process was taken from him,” said Beaird. “Even though his decisions were bad, the decisions pale in comparison with what those officers did.”

Bill Beaird said his son Brian had “some kind of problem” with police connected to his paranoia but he did not elaborate. Beaird said his late son had struggled with paranoia following brain surgery and the loss of friends in a helicopter crash. A claim is a precursor to filing of a civil lawsuit at least 45 days later. Galipo said he hoped a settlement could be reached with the police department before then.

The filing comes the day after LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that three LAPD officers have been temporarily relieved of patrol duty pending the outcome of criminal and administrative investigations.

“After hearing the preliminary briefing, I am very concerned about the circumstances that led up to and resulted in this Officer Involved Shooting,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday. “Because of those concerns I have directed that the three involved officers be assigned home pending the final results of the investigation. Determinations regarding training or possible disciplining of the involved officers will be made at that time.”

Beck also noted “no weapon was recovered” at the accident scene. The LAPD did not immediately say how many shots hit Beaird, or offer an explanation for why deadly force was used.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Texas Student Fatally Shot by Campus Police After Traffic Stop

By TARA BERARDI | Good Morning America – 3 hours ago


A 23-year-old honor student is dead after he was fatally shot by a campus police officer during a traffic stop in San Antonio, Texas, police said.

University of the Incarnate Word student Robert Cameron Redus was pulled over by Cpl. Christopher Carter at 2:30 a.m. Friday near the campus for driving "erratically at a high rate of speed," police said. Then, according to police, "a struggle ensued between the suspect driver and the police officer." The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Tree House Apartments, which is adjacent to the campus.

Redus was shot multiple times during the struggle and pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

"There was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom -- six shots," a witness, who asked to not be identified, told ABC News affiliate KSAT-TV. Authorities say it's unclear why the struggle ensued and why Redus was shot multiple times. The University confirmed that Carter is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues, which is standard procedure for police agencies in Texas. Carter "has an extensive law-enforcement background" and has been with the school for "several years," the university said in a statement. ABC News was unable to reach Carter for comment. Police didn't provide additonal details of the incident.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the student and officer involved in this incident," said UIW President Dr. Lou Agnese in the release.

Redus' family said in a statement, "We are understandably devastated by the death of our dear son Cameron and we ask for your prayers as we deal with our tragic loss."

Redus' friends are still in shock and gathered at the campus Saturday to remember him at a vigil.

"He's not an aggressive person at all, so the story just doesn't really make sense to any of us," student Sarah Davis told KSAT.

Others remembered Redus as a kind, well-liked student within the university community.

"Cameron was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person," Redus' friend Annie Jones said. "So compassionate."

The incident is being investigated by the Alamo Heights Police Department with the assistance of the Texas Rangers.

[-] 0 points by Narley (272) 8 years ago

More info rel;eased today. The college student grabbed the cops baton and was attacking him with it. The cop was able to get it back but the struggle continued until the cop pulled his weapon and shot the student.

Pulled over at 2:00 AM for driving erratically, fighting the cop and beating the cop with his baton. Odds are the kid was drunk or on drugs. Not enough details yet to know if there was just cause for deadly force. But beating up a cop will always end badly.