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Article posted Aug 18 2011, 7:52 PM Category: Tyranny/Police State Source: Steven Greenhut Print

But America IS A Police State

by Steven Greenhut

Six Fullerton cops, responding to a phone call alleging that someone in the downtown area might be breaking into cars, approached a 130-pound homeless man named Kelly Thomas, grabbed his backpack and, according to eyewitnesses, began Tasering him and beating him into a pulp. He died a few days later at a local hospital.

According to eyewitnesses, Thomas, although schizophrenic, did nothing to warrant arrest, let alone a savage beating. He was a local fixture around the bar scene, a gentle figure who bummed cigarettes and slept in the park. Videos made by bystanders showed pure aggression on the part of the cops, while locals expressed horror and Thomas cried out for his dad as he was being beaten.

In my column about this apparent act of police thuggery, I quoted Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, who calls California a "secret police state." Some readers no doubt find this description to be too much for their tender sensibilities. So I want to recount some of the ways the authorities have behaved during and after the incident, and then ask this question: Does this typical behavior better reflect the policies of a free society or a police state?

1. Officers responded to a nonviolent call with overwhelming violent force.

2. Police confiscated the video camera of a bystander who was standing nearby taping the ongoing incident, thereby limiting the ability of the public to see what actually took place and obliterating the freedom of the person doing the taping.

3. The offending officers were allowed to review the official videotape recorded on a bus-depot camera before filing their police reports. This allowed them to get their stories straight before going on the record. Here we see a horrendous double standard – the rules for the authorities are different than the rules for the subjects.

4. The district attorney’s office has refused to release the official video, arguing that it would taint a jury.

5. The DA has been busy downplaying the incident in the local media, arguing, for instance, that the police had no intent to kill, as if anyone really thought they had premeditated a murder. DA’s rarely if ever file charges against police officers for police brutality. I’ve dealt with this particular DA in the past during other use of force issues and he always is quick to exonerate any police misbehavior in such cases. The DA doesn’t seem concerned that his statements would taint a jury.

6. The law is written in such a way that even if the DA were serious about cracking down on police brutality, he would be hard-pressed to do so. An officer is allowed to use deadly force if he believes that his life were in danger, and of course such officers always claim that their lives were in danger, no matter the facts involved in the case.

7. The police department has released disinformation to suggest that Thomas got what was coming to him. The Fullerton PD spokesman released a report claiming that the officers had suffered broken bones in the scuffle, which was not true. The department released a menacing photograph of Thomas that does not actually appear to be Thomas, according to those who know him.

8. It took the department 30 days to put these thugs on administrative leave – i.e., paid vacation. The department refuses to release the name of the killers. State law makes it illegal for the city to release any information about the accused killers and their previous misbehavior.

9. The six Fullerton PD officers refuse to be interviewed by the DA. Unwilling to deal with the tough questions, the police chief went out on medical leave – the precursor to a tax-funded disability retirement. Try going on paid medical leave if you were too stressed after the police were questioning you!

10. After dozens and then hundreds of local residents showed up downtown to calmly and peacefully protest the killing and the cover up, city officials described them as a lynch mob and as terrorists. So officials act like a true mob and like true terrorists and are coddled by officials, but when the public gets upset and acts in a calm and appropriate and All American manner, they are depicted that way.

11. One councilman, a former police chief who hired the Fullerton cops in question, said on national television that the police did not necessarily kill Thomas. He said that the facial injuries – i.e., his face was beaten so severely it was not recognizable as Thomas – do not mean that the police caused serious harm to Thomas. He said the public shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what killed Thomas. Thomas was walking around and healthy, six cops beat and Tasered him and then he dies. But according to officials, that doesn’t mean that the cops had anything to do with the death. What would the police have said had a gang beaten up a cop who later died?

12. The local civil rights activists, who are paid by local cities and police departments to fight hate crimes and stand up for the downtrodden, are calling for more training of the police, more taxpayer-funded Kumbaya sessions and for more "outside" investigations handled by people with a history of whitewashing police abuse.

13. Some in the local mainstream media have been making excuses for the cops and making fun of the local blog that has done all the legwork on this story.

14. The state attorney general, who could be called in to investigate the killing, is being advised by one of the most thuggish police union officials I’ve ever encountered. She is trying to earn more police support as she potentially seeks higher office.

15. Police officials and unions are of course circling the wagons and claiming that we cannot judge the split-second decisions made by officers in the heat of the moment, even though six large armed police were up against one tiny unarmed man and it was the police who started the altercation – one that lasted much longer than a few split seconds.

16. The police union hired an attorney to send a threatening letter to a blogger who had been covering the incident, knowing full well that most bloggers don’t have the wherewithal to fight these threatened SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) suits.

17. FYI, Fullerton police have been subject to various scandals involving officers – ranging from theft to drug use to sexual misbehavior in a squad car and official sources have offered a variety of excuses, mostly related to the stresses of the job. There’s a clear pattern of special treatment for officers compared to the treatment received by the public.

The only difference in Fullerton from the many other instances of police thuggery I have covered in California is that the public doesn’t seem to be buying the excuses and seems genuinely mad at what has happened.

But a recent story in Sacramento reports on how Elk Grove police fired an assault rifle at point-blank range at a handcuffed man in the back of a patrol car. The district attorney, of course, found that the officer feared for his life and did nothing wrong.

And reports this week show that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) officials shut down all cellular service after believing that people angry at the police killing of a man on July 3 would be using their cell phones to organize a protest. Perish the thought that anyone be allowed to hold a non-violent protest on BART property.

This is the same BART where an officer, Johannes Mehserle, shot to death an unarmed and prostrate man named Oscar Grant in the back. Mehserle received a two-year slap-on-the-wrist sentence for involuntary manslaughter and has been treated as a martyr by police unions angered that a DA would dare prosecute a killer cop. This was the first time in California history that a cop was prosecuted for murder for an on-duty killing, in case any readers think that this prosecution undermines my point.

Meanwhile, police are increasingly arresting onlookers who videotape police doing such things. Without the videotape Mehserle would be on the job and there would be no angry Fullerton residents protesting. No wonder the cops are grabbing our cameras.

Efforts in the Legislature to open up police records go absolutely nowhere as union-loving Democrats and law-and-order Republicans unite to do the police bidding. The courts continue to rule in favor of police secrecy, as this case involving cell phones and this one involving disciplinary records reveal. City council members not only fear the political power of local police unions, but retired police officers frequently win posts on the City Council.

Since 9/11, the public generally sides with the cops, especially in Republican areas such as Orange County.

Police can use deadly force at will. They can confiscate cameras and keep their own official videos away from public view. They can intimidate and harass writers. They can count on their departments to cover up for them. They know the "outside" investigators, mostly their colleagues and allies in the law enforcement community, will do the same for them. They can count on the media and the public to excuse them.

Yet some people blush at the term Police State.
Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is editor-in-chief of, author of Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives And Bankrupting The Nation!, and a columnist for The Orange County Register.

Copyright © 2011 Steven Greenhut

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Comments 1 - 10 of 10 Add Comment Page 1 of 1

Posted: Aug 19 2011, 6:54 AM

216130 Give it 5 years and we'll have cameras so small they'll mount on your glasses and the f*ckers will never know who may be recording...for all the good that will do in the meantime.
Doc Ellis 124

Posted: Aug 19 2011, 9:56 PM

98151 Greetings

Shared with attribution

Thank you

Doc Ellis 124

Posted: Aug 21 2011, 3:00 PM

75117 What should be done is embed a cameraman that police are not allowed to touch and harass while he/she is with the officers. That way there is a clear (neutral) witness to all police/criminal activities. This journalist should be specially trained in both journalism and law enforcement. He should remain neutral in all police affairs during all calls, only taping and witnessing. This cameraman should not report to the police, only to a civilian oversight committee who is responsible for turning over evidence, suspending officers who are in question and reporting to the media.

The police clearly need a big brother.

Posted: Aug 23 2011, 8:37 PM

7512 I just saw the camera specs you mentioned in a Popular Science, or Popular Mechanics magazine. $150

Posted: Nov 11 2012, 4:32 AM

7175 the DA and the police are fishing buddies in most cities across america. The DA is suppose to represent the ppl but, he typically works close with police to prosecute you and me. He will always side with the police. Never forget that.
In my county on the east coast I actually had the DA himself survey me. The guy literally crawled in my bushes at night. I finally had to file a complaint against him because, my wife was afraid of him after seeing him stalking us daily after work. He was at our house so often that, he wore a place to the bare ground in the ditch behind our mailboxes across the street .
The whole police dept came after us in response to the complaint. Our phones were tapped,we were physically followed and then they electronically tracked us after I kept losing them. Our pets were beaten and killed and our home was vandalized. I was fired from several jobs in a row for absolutely no reason. That was 15 years ago. I still have not been charged with a crime or seen a warrant and yet, they still watch me and taunt me on a regular basis.

Posted: Nov 21 2012, 2:59 AM

71195 ANY society where the police can confiscate the cameras of the public at large is not a free society. We all expect, no DEMAND, that police are always exhibiting behavior that is socially acceptable. If they can't handle cameras recording their work, than their work is obviously substandard and can't stand the light of day.

We need to DEMAND the right of our police to be under constant scrutiny as they go about they business. Now, obviously there is a fine line between some bugger who goes around paparazzi style inhibiting the police's force's work, but this would be a minority of fuckwits, with a clause added to inhibit such behavior. Filming a police beating or other action should in no way be impeded. They are acting as public servants with nothing to hide, or should be. The light shining on their actions is long needed defense only recently given to the public by technology. Do no let them take it away, and do not let them pass bullshit laws inhibiting the "filming" of police-work because it "inhibits" their work.

That is pure bullshit and fear on the part of police officers that know and have known for quite some time that they are committing and getting away with crimes on a regular basis. The public should always have the power, and I'm not talking about firepower (though right to bear arms is another story I support) but the ability to bring the truth to the court of law, and the court of public opinion.

Posted: May 06 2013, 7:14 PM

678 force of neglect -incendiary

a song written about this specific event, worth a listen
James Smith

Posted: May 26 2013, 3:35 PM

17799 Is there anyone who is not a total right-wing nut that seriously believes the USA is still a free country?

Think about no-warrant wire taps, indefinite detention of prisoners without charges, no-knock entries, search and seizure without probably cause, stop and frisk policies, confiscation and even destruction of cameras, rendition of prisoners, approval of torture, "managed" news, and the list could go on forever. Does any of this sound like a free country?

If George W. Bush had not been to terrible, people would be outraged about the policies of Obama. Only by comparison the the worst president of all time, does he appear moderate. When you think abut what he has really changed, he could be the hand-picked successor to "W".

My advise it to get out while you can.

Posted: Dec 17 2013, 6:08 PM

76104 From the State that gave U.S. Ron Raygun ! who also changed a lot of the Laws On The Books. (how they are applyed-the laws-)
Tom Allen

Posted: May 03 2015, 4:40 AM

71230 If America was a "police state" one would not be able to publish websites like this.

Yes, there are problems. Yes, there are drugs listed on the controlled substances act that are less harmful to people than tobacco and alcohol. Yes, there is corruption in the political process

But no the US is not a police state.
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