SUSPECT

This is a couple weeks old, but it has been bothering me. This is a rather dull video of Aaron Hernandez – accused multiple-murderer recently of the New England Patriots – being arrested.

Pretty boring, right? Given the number of times you've seen video of people being arrested in this country, doesn't it feel like something's missing? This is a potential triple-murderer! Where are the drawn guns? Where's the SWAT team? Where's the body armor? Where are the tasers? Where's the battering ram through the front door? Why is no one crashing through the windows?

My, who knew the police could be so cordial. They almost look like they're sorry for bothering him. They had to cuff him, but they're careful not to embarrass him by taking him outside shirtless. And to top it off, they manage to get him in the back seat of a squad car without slamming his head against the frame of the car. I didn't even know that was possible!

This is a prime example of the two justice systems that operate side-by-side in the United States, and your income level (with the possible added bonus of celebrity status) determines which one you experience. Frankly, it's bad enough that millionaire traders get this gentle treatment when they're arrested for fraud – at least law enforcement can fall back on the disingenuous excuse that they are non-violent offenders. But in the opinion of the police, Hernandez murdered three people. If ever the "crash through the doors" approach could be justified, it would be here. Wouldn't it be logical to worry that he'd start shooting? And they already know he has destroyed a good bit of evidence (cameras, phones, etc) so time would be of the essence, right?

Instead we see the smoke and tear gas and body armor deployed not only against poorer violent offenders but non-violent ones as well. The great legacy of the War on Drugs – the militarization of American law enforcement – is on full display not for accused killers but for the scourge of marijuana. Aaron Hernandez might be armed to the teeth and have nothing to lose by starting a shootout, but Joe Blow has a shoebox of pills in the hall closet. Better shoot first and ask questions later.

The most likely explanation – that Hernandez's expensive attorneys negotiated a surrender with the police before anything shown in this video – of course remains out of reach for 98% of criminals. The public defender sure as hell isn't going to tell the State Police that it's OK to show up in three-piece suits. We should all be o lucky.

(If you're anything like me, your mind immediately went to Tron Carter from Chappelle's Show in the skit where crack dealers get the same treatment from the police as white collars)

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14 Responses to “SUSPECT”

  1. OldBean Says:

    One, two, three, four… FIF!

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    I don't know if that's *all* of the most likely explanation, though that's surely part of it. Another part is simply that when the media shows, people pay attention to how the police do their jobs. And jobs are, for the most part, things that people will do, in the immortal words of OFFICE SPACE, just hard enough not to get fired.

    I don't think the police are any more or less racist/classist than your average American. Which is to say, I suspect that quite a few of them are incredibly fucking racist/classist, others are moderately fucking racist/classist, and still others are only mildly fucking racist/classist. Racism/classism is a near-universal condition, but most of us are in positions in which we know that the consequences of expressing our racism will be dire, or have achieved the insight that's an evil delusion, and is therefore *our* problem, and not the problem of the people who trigger it.

    But cops are in a position to make their racism/classism a serious, *serious* problem for others. And cops are people. And most people are lazy. And racism, classism, and laziness go hand in hand in hand–the lazier you are, the more vulnerable your victims are, the more likely it is for you to not give a shit who knows you're a bigot, because fuck it.

    But in this instance, racism, classism, shoddy work, violence that could easily be characterized as excessive (either because it was or because the lazy media needed something to sensationalize)–none of that was gonna fly when the cameras were on and too many people-of-consequence were watching. (When Penn and Clooney and Bunk-from-THE-WIRE watch the arrest and start to arrange boycotts and marches, somebody low on the food chain gets to be the scapegoat.)

    So yeah, it's money, and race, and fame–but mostly its because nobody wanted to get fired for doing a visibly poor job. So many things can go wrong when violence is part of an arrest. So many things can be incorrectly characterized (or worse, correctly characterized.) Why risk it when the guy will come nice and quiet, and the worst you'll have to do is say to the cameras "What–you want we shoulda busted his head? He was cooperatin'." Non-story, that.

    And Ed? You and I *are* so lucky: we're educated white men with ties to the legal and professional community. When the cops come for us, they will be wearing ties and sportcoats and telling us it's OK to use the side door for the perp walk. God bless America.

  3. Arslan Says:

    How DARE you suggest that there isn't equality in the American justice system! How DARE you insinuate that something called "class" exists in America!! Don't you know this is a classless society!! WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA?

  4. J. Dryden Says:

    @ Arslan: Well, mostly because you live here.

    (…is the comeback appropriate to the character you've adopted. Just to be clear, because God damn the internet's inability to convey a deadpan tone.)

  5. Xynzee Says:

    Are you being devisive Ed? Because something tells me you're being devisive.

    Was that something approximating sarcasm coming from you Arslan? ;)

  6. Arslan Says:

    Seriously though, one of my favorite responses when I hear some Tea Party type claiming that they're proud of "their country" is: "You're proud to be an American but America ain't proud of you." Not very conducive to rational discourse but dammit if it doesn't hurt some feelings.

  7. c u n d gulag Says:

    And while the minority kid with some joints in his pocket, and a bag of pot in his room – or cocaine, and especially, crack – ends up in some hell-hole of a prison for years and years, our white collar criminals bitch when their country club prison only has a 3-hole golf course, and they have to do a few years in it.

    We have a three-toned justice system, and it's for hire.
    The tones are green, white, and every other color – and that applies to both the victims and the alleged perpetrators.
    Generally, minority victims and alleged perpetrators get little justice, because they can't afford it.

    But if you've got a lot of green, our justice system understands that just fine.
    Green, is the great equalizer.
    OJ got some of the best legal talent around to defend him.
    Do you think some poor ex-HS black running back would have walked, if he'd killed his white wife in CA, and he was represented by a Public Defender?
    Hell- even if the glove didn't fit, they wouldn't acquit.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again – the mistake Bernie Madoff made, was in ripping-off rich people.
    If he'd found a way to make billions off us "poors" in a Ponzi scheme, he'd still be out there, living out his champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

  8. OliverWendelHolmslice Says:

    There is a running joke among criminal defense attorneys that the cops always charge people with resisting arrest to cover their own asses. Violent cop beat the shit out of your client? He was resisting arrest!

  9. John Says:

    A couple weeks back, Erick, Son of Erick was on my radio warning me about how Obamacare was going to give us "a two-tiered healthcare system; one for rich people and one for the rest of us".

    I've never wanted to choke another human as much as I did that day. Either he was deliberately lying to his audience, or he's never so much as taken a look outside. We already have two tiers in this country, and it applies to a whole hell of a lot more than healthcare. There's the America that the wealthy experience, and then there's the shithole that the rest of us live in.

  10. Sarah Says:

    The indigent are not only suffering harsher treatment at the hands of the police and the courts, they also are losing out on the right to counsel as a result of the sequester.

    And Republicans continue to wrap themselves in the flag while wiping their asses with the Constitution.

  11. Both Sides Do It Says:

    Between the racial draft, ordering a Samuel Jackson and "then she threw her titties in my hands your honor . . . it was weird" Bill Burr had a great run on that show.

  12. DrS Says:

    @c u n d gulag

    "I've said it before, and I'll say it again – the mistake Bernie Madoff made, was in ripping-off rich people.
    If he'd found a way to make billions off us "poors" in a Ponzi scheme, he'd still be out there, living out his champagne wishes and caviar dreams."

    In other news, Jaime Dimon roams freely.

  13. HoosierPoli Says:

    The reason that bankers can't be arrested for financial crimes is that Americans are required by law to withdraw investments in firms under criminal investigation. In other words, drag Jamie Diamond in front of a jury, and CALPERS has to pull out their money, and you've got too big to fail all over again.

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