BATH — For about 50 years, Congress and the Supreme Court have incrementally militarized America’s police and re-cast their social contract with the republic. What we are seeing in Portland, Oregon, and throughout America is the inevitable consequence of decades of using federal and local law enforcement as political enforcers.

There was a time when police appreciated that their role was to “protect and serve.” The success of that was rooted in sustaining a positive relationship with their communities. Relationship was like gold in the bank, consequently most of day-to-day policing was pay-it-forward.

For example, many years ago, there was a squad-car team in Bath who resembled Laurel and Hardy, one a giant, the other small and lean as a bean. When making traffic stops, they often switched hats. If the offender burst out laughing when he saw Laurel’s tiny brioche on Hardy or Hardy’s whaler on Laurel, they were usually let go with a warning. The idea that anyone could be extrajudicially executed for a traffic offense would have been as outrageously incomprehensible to them as switching hats probably seems incomprehensible to us today.

As I write this, I find myself wondering if I need to explain why a hat and some wit was often a better tool for community policing than pepper-spray, tear gas, steel batons, Tasers, maiming munitions, machine guns, anti-ballistic swaddling, light tanks and all the other contemporary instruments of intimidation. That makes me a bit sad; nostalgia, I guess.

I could write more about the nitty-gritty of how we arrived in our predicament: authoritarian politics, police recruiting that selects for sadistic tendencies and targets ex-military whose whole training focused on breaking down the natural reluctance to killing.

My family came to America as part of the Jamestown colonization in about 1607. Since then we had served in every major American war. I am a descendant of trained killers: citizen soldiers back to the Revolution, and James Bowie – not a nice guy, and a Texas Ranger, who became the first Federal Marshal of Tulsa, when Oklahoma achieved statehood. My father produced airplanes for World War II and then, when he was old enough, flew them in combat, as he continued to do during the Cold War.

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I broke with that pattern of service. Appalled by the Vietnam War, with my father’s blessing, I refused to participate. Instead I later worked with the Disabled Veterans Employment Project, helping vets find a way home. The program’s director was one of the smartest people I have known; also, a quadriplegic – land mine.

Have no doubt, putting guns and body armor on men and women recently returned from the horrendous trauma of asymmetrical war is beyond cruel. Giving them little other choice for a decent livelihood is monstrous. In the role of police officer, under stress, they easily fall back into their warrior persona.

So, what do you and I do to close this horror show? We can drive our political leaders restore sanity to policing. First, everyone must become accountable before the law, everyone! Congress and the courts must demilitarize public safety institutions. The Department of Homeland Security must be broken in competing branches, as the military is, so that policing is never again hijacked for authoritarianism purposes. Police must be given the training and tools to serve as well as to protect, and they must be held to account.

If we must protest, and clearly, sometimes we must! Imagination and wit will always be more powerful tools, overall, than violence. Imagine how confrontations might be changed if, when traumatized, dehumanized police pepper-spray and tear-gas citizens exercising their constitutional rights, they were met with return sprays of Skunk-Um, I believe the PredatorPee® literature says it all.

“… the first scent ever developed to intentionally repel people. On streets and in neighborhoods everywhere … our skunk spray … is the perfect solution. With Skunk-Um …. Just … spray the area … to send unwanted people on their way!”

Oh, and all you governors, the purpose of your National Guard is to protect your citizens. Mobilize them to deal with the rogue DHS provocateurs assaulting your communities. They are trained for it.


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