Thursday, December 25, 2014

"A specious comparison"

Making sense of the police beating

"A specious comparison"

I haven't written anything all week about the Philadelphia story that's making national news, the alleged police brutality that was captured on film a TV news crew. It's a weird situation -- to the world and national media, officers shown kicking and clubbing three suspects on the ground is a "shock video," and that's understandable, but they haven't lived the context that we have here in Philadelphia -- since the assassination of a police officer in cold blood wasn't as big news to them. Of course, there's no video of the act of wanton inhumanity that killed Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, so it doesn't get the same level of coverage.

I think most people here in Philly are disappointed by the incident -- we want professionalism from our cops, which means responding forcefully at times but also rationally, something that's often easier said than done. The things that really trigger raw outrage -- the beating of an unarmed suspect in a minor crime, like Rodney King --just aren't there. Also, the video doesn't tell the whole story -- it's impossible to see whether the suspects on the ground are still resisting or not -- which is why the best thing for now is simply a full investigation. It's hard to disagree with both Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Mayor Nutter when they say "it doesn't look good" but that we need to know more.

Not surprisingly, Christine M. Flowers waded in on this today, and she said:

Liberal critics like this usually don't worry too much about being inconsistent. They never met a specious comparison they didn't like.

So it isn't a surprise that they've now focused on an alleged case of "police brutality" in the heated hours after Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was executed. Although you hate to see this type of behavior, it's certainly understandable how officers who'd lost a brother and who were under a heightened state of stress might have flown off the handle when apprehending suspects involved in a triple shooting, two of whom turn out to have records involving drugs and firearms.

But hey, why worry about details when you have a chance to scream about police brutality?

But I think Christine is worked up over liberal anger that she expected to find but that just isn't there. Let's face it, there's a lot of liberals here in Philadelphia, but I have not seen them racing to criticize the cops on this one -- for the reasons discussed above. The lone comment that she's so worked up about in her column was uttered by a lawyer for one of the defendants; I hardly think someone advocating for his client is suddenly a spokesman for all liberals. The attorney's comment compares the alleged police brutality to abuses in Iraq.

Indeed, there is no comparison to Abu Ghraib -- because Abu Ghraib is far worse. Whatever happened on the streets of Philadelphia was an act of passion, committed in the midst of an urban gun war. The torture at Abu Ghraib was premeditated and undertaken for dubious reasons at best and often for no reason other than the sport of inhuman cruelty. Many of the subjects of this mistreatment either had doing nothing wrong or were there for minor offenses. The abuses at Abu Ghraib were approved at high levels. And the detriment to any good the U.S. could possibly accomplish in the Middle East, and to the image of America around the world, has been incalculable. And yet Christine somehow uses a Philly policing controversy (I'd explain her logic, but it's hard to follow) to rationalize what happened 11,000 miles from home.

She's right about one thing.

It's a specious comparison.

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Will Bunch
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