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)