As if Super Bowl 53 could’ve gotten worse, the shitty town I’m imminently moving out of at the end of this month was given the national spotlight in a prime-time commercial slot! Was it the civic failure saga of the “Ghost Train to Nowhere” being highlighted to the entire country, perhaps as a cautionary tale of the dangers of allowing private contractors to ruin public transit projects? No, it couldn’t be, unless I’ve hit the lottery and started running vanity ads like Tom Steyer. Maybe an ad trumpeting the area’s diversity and representation after Brianna Titone became the state’s first transgender lawmaker in a traditionally republican-held district? Not in a million years, like Pats fans need any more hate crime fuel.
It was in fact an advertisement paid for by Ford Motors for Colorado Springs nonprofit SHIELD616 featuring an Arvada Police officer hawking for donations for body armor:
Let’s put aside that Colorado police pulled $21 million just in marijuana tax revenue last year and that Arvada is consistently rated as one of the safest cities in America, seeing just 27 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2017, or that they are a great example of totally overstocked and overmilitarization in the first place, with quick access to the Jefferson County “BearCat” armored vehicle as well as the assault weapons I see slung around the backs of uniformed officers responding to apparent traffic incidents.
Never mind that the Arvada Police Department, until an officer was hit by a car in 2009, hadn’t experienced an officer fatality since 1961. This is a town that was literally rocked by a crime wave of teenagers breaking windows and grabbing a couple of things just a few months ago, not quite the epicenter of lawlessness and flying bullets that necessitate a $5+ million commercial spot during the most-watched television event in the country.
The Police Department received 20 vest kits in a publicity ceremony last week, quick to hearken on the three officers killed last year but conveniently neglecting to point out the rampage Colorado law enforcement has been on in the early months of 2019. As of March 5th, there have been 19 officer-involved woundings and 9 fatalities, including an incident where a man was killed and a woman was wounded after police and federal marshals opened fire on a vehicle with two toddlers in it attempting to arrest the man on a probation violation. Several other officer-involved shootings involved incidents in which the police reported being allegedly hit by suspect’s cars, which is an awfully remarkable coincidence for six of those altercations, and something that the Denver Police Department had to revise policy over after paying nearly $1 million to the family of Jessie Hernandez in 2017, a teen shot to death by police while sitting in an allegedly stolen vehicle with several other children in 2015.
It seems a little odd that the officers reporting that they were struck by fleeing vehicles didn’t need to be hospitalized, and that by claiming they were struck, were able to completely usurp a citizen’s right to due process and execute the alleged suspects, especially since the largest city in Colorado changed policy regarding shooting at fleeing vehicles. A lot more cops seem to be “hit” by vehicles these days as a correlation. An interesting connection is also the relentless pursuit of charges against a man recently acquitted of killing Colorado State Patrol Trooper Cory Donahue after two mistrials in two-and-a-half years. Once again, Colorado law enforcement have positioned themselves as vindictive against the public and reinforced an us-vs-them mentality against a man who by most sane accounts was involved in a highway accident.
The SHIELD616 organization is equally dubious. Featured on their website are numerous religious screeds that bring a picture of the “warrior cop” mentality to the forefront, wiping away any criticism of a state so rife with allegations of trigger-happy police brutality they shoot their own off-duty officers or blow away Samaritans defending their homes. Another quote from their website is equally disturbing:
“First, we want to equip every first responder with necessary, advanced active shooter / crowd control gear. Second, we want to provide a support group for that first responder who will pray for the first responder and his or her family on a daily basis and shower the first responder with support and encouragement throughout the year.”
Good lord. “Active shooter” gear didn’t stop the Stoneman Douglas shooter, did it? Crowd control gear? For what? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count. Forming a prayer group to “shower [cops] with support and encouragement” is maybe the most bootlick, brownnose shit I’ve ever heard in my life.
Portraying “criminals” as “evil” while claiming the police “wear the armor of God” certainly betrays that police in Colorado are closer to Judge Dredd-esque Übermensch rather than civil servants looking to intervene in disputes and allow citizens suspected of wrongdoing to be judged in courts of law. This level of pat-yourself-on-the-back authoritarian fetishism is nearly unrivaled outside of neo-Nazi circles, to be frank.
This is plain and simple “copaganda.” I would encourage people to listen to or read the transcript of Episode 60 of the podcast “Citations Needed” for more on this terminology, but for this specific instance, police are understanding that in the age of smartphone cameras and social media, they’re losing control of the “hero narrative” that enables them to use the criminal justice system as a slave labor farm and personal piggybank using civil asset forfeiture as every new misdeed is exposed by an increasingly vigilant public. Their role in society is becoming more and more obvious: servants and attack dogs for the rich and their property rights and profit lines. The origins of modern policing, slave catchers and strike breakers, will undoubtedly be more clear as a historic resurgence of labor actions highlight which side police are on.
With news breaking of police and military involvement in white supremacist and right-wing paramilitary organizations, it’s important to remember where some Colorado law enforcement stand on the issue:
Lionizing armed agents of the state that have proven incompetent or downright vicious is dangerous. Portraying them as crusaders against some invisible horde is dishonest, especially when that horde is apparently coming after Arvada, Colorado. Stories like what SHIELD616 are peddling are designed to exacerbate fear of a problem that doesn’t exist, and is actually inverse of the issue needing to be confronted. The amount of lipservice given to how dangerous it is to be a cop is laughable, especially when the profession doesn’t even register in the top 10 of most dangerous jobs in the United States. Citizens in Colorado should be far more worried about being shot by police. Perhaps we need vests.