Benevolence and Murder

The following link is to the news of the arrest of Ramsey Orta, the 22-year-old man who filmed the NYPD murder of Eric Garner: http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/man-who-filmed-nypd-choke-hold-video-arrested-on-weapons-charges#tscptme

There are two things I want to comment upon, two statements made by the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. One is that it is “criminals like Mr. Orta who carry illegal firearms who stand to benefit the most by demonizing the good work of police officers.” The other statement reads, “Sadly, in the effort to keep neighborhoods like Tompkinsville safe, a tragedy occurred. But that doesn’t change the fact that police officers routinely risk their lives for the benefit of the community.”

To the former, I say that the “good work” of an individual, a group of individuals, an organization, or an institutional entity cannot be defined a priori, but it must be determined and shown in actual practice. In fact, it is increasingly the case that the actual practice of the NYPD or other police departments in the US or elsewhere does not support the definition or characterization of their work as “good work.” Below, I will go back to the use of the words “demonizing” and “benefit.”

To the latter, I say that, first of all, it is false (or at least inaccurate) to state that “a tragedy occurred.” What occurs is an accident, which is by definition unexpected. A tragic accident, or a natural disaster, may occur. But the tragic event of July 18, in which Eric Garner lost his life, was no accident. It was a tragedy, for Eric, his family and friends, the community, the city, and the world. But it did not simply occur. It didn’t simply happen, or come to pass. It was rather willingly brought about, forced upon Eric Garner; it was the direct result of the predisposition toward violence typical of the police. The Benevolent Association, shedding crocodile’s tears, insists that this tragedy, however, “doesn’t change the fact that police officers routinely risk their lives for the benefit of the community.” This is one of those lies that, repeated often enough, are finally accepted as valid and true notions. But they are false. They are false because, first of all, everybody’s life is constantly in danger, and the police offer no exception to that rule; secondly, it is increasingly hard to claim that the police are actually working for the benefit of the community.

I now go back to a brief discussion of the words “demonizing” and “benefit.” What we are told is that criminal Ramsey Orta benefits from demonizing the police and that the police themselves, who “routinely risk their lives for the benefit of the community,” are instead depicted as criminals. Astonishingly, the context of all this is the murder of Eric Garner. However, as is clear from the video Ramsey Orta shot on July 18, in which Officer Daniel Pantaleo is clearly seen putting Garner on a chokehold while other officers cooperate with him or busy themselves chasing onlookers away, there is no “demonizing” of the police whatsoever. Watching the video, few (perhaps no one) would be in doubt as to who the criminals are, and who those risking their lives; who benefits from what, and who demonizes whom. It is, once again, astonishing, that the police engage in this type of public relations exercises. They may brutalize and kill. Yet, why would they expect anyone to be persuaded by their cynical and shallow reasoning?

P.S.: A friend pointed out to me that three days after Ramsey Orta’s arrest, his wife was also arrested: http://www.mediaite.com/online/wife-of-man-who-filmed-eric-garners-chokehold-arrested/

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