SB217’s Blind Spot: Colorado’s Police Should Return to Unencrypted Scanners

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers inspired one of the most widespread and heroic uprisings in modern United States history. Two weeks of rioting and protest have opened a dialogue about the nature of police and spurred more efforts at reform, or in some cases outright abolition, than years of voting and token civilian oversight efforts ever could have. This is a reckoning years in the making – rampant police brutality has persisted nationwide for decades and between the police unions making any accountability or policy change all but impossible, a “Thin Blue Line” “warrior” culture that has deliberately placed cops above the citizenry, and both peaceful protest and representative democracy failing to rectify the problem, it was only a matter of time before things finally exploded. The brutal, indiscriminate response from police all across the country exposed them as an occupying force with contempt for the populations they purportedly serve rather than a profession existing for conflict resolution; an extortion racket for the wealthy existing to crush dissent and keep systems and institutions failing the vast majority of people afloat to maintain revenue streams.

Unsurprisingly, Colorado law enforcement was in rare form. With a long history of protest suppression, the response to initial demonstrations in downtown Denver as well as Colorado Springs was a strategy of overwhelming force and intimidation. Mirroring the conflicts that played out in most major American cities, it was obvious that the police were starting the riots, but the segment of demonstrators willing to fight back – rightfully fed up with police overreach and invulnerability – was significantly higher than usual. A police murder and the subsequent efforts to crush any outcry should always be seen as a breach of the social contract, and a critical mass of people justifiably and righteously made that breach a two-way street by opening up a conflict with the police that raged for days and still shows very little sign of stopping.

Local efforts to diffuse the tension have ranged from nefarious, with a seemingly AstroTurf “activist” organization emerging overnight in Denver that focused immediately on tone policing, sowing division with a lack of respect for a diversity of tactics, and staging photo-ops for local politicians and the police department, to suspicious – there’s been speculation that the Denver Police stood down not just to deescalate, but because the department was running out of crowd control weapon munitions and had exhausted their manpower. It’s also likely the mayor’s office pulled them back after realizing the DPD handled everything terribly and was primarily responsible for escalating the situation. An officer was fired for posting himself and two other police officers in riot gear and captioning it “Let’s Start a Riot” on Instagram.

Token symbolic measures, like the painting of Black Lives Matter in front of the capitol building and some changing of street signs, were taken this week. Quite quickly, a flurry of activity at the statehouse to get some legislation on the books and hopefully quell anger was engaged, giving Coloradans SB217, a reform bill that’s already passed in the House and will be voted on imminently in the Senate. State Republicans and law enforcement groups (naturally) object to many of the proposals and will likely neuter key provisions in an already relatively toothless bill that seems, on its face, full of “reforms” that are nebulously enforceable.

Continue reading “SB217’s Blind Spot: Colorado’s Police Should Return to Unencrypted Scanners”

Official Notice Regarding the End of the Unexplained and Unannounced Indefinite Hiatus

Just as in the Aughts, when people still read blogs, in the 90s, people subscribed to magazines. These were the decades of my childhood, reading and news consumption was different then. You paid $29.99 a year for several Ivy League dicks to repackage a Pentagon press release so you could learn about “The Crisis in Somalia,” it sat on a coffee table as a kind of milquetoast status symbol, and then, sometime around April, the charge would fuck up your checkbook balancing because you forgot about it and like a New Year’s Resolution during a hangover, you’d decide to pick it back up before remembering Joel Stein as a kind of a blowhard failson and continuing the coffee table ritual once again.

This phenomenon for the reader is remarkably similar to what vain, unpaid indie blogger holdouts experience with their yearly WordPress webhosting bill a full two decades after blogs stopped being relevant reading, as the discourse went bite-sized, or devoured through earbuds by a half-asleep light rail commuter. I live, still, a year later, and for some reason still yearn to broadcast my dropout garbage person thoughts into the ether. My relationship with blogging, characterized as a sort of half-talk-radio-half-newspaper-column informal article writing, is not unlike my stormy betrothal to fiction writing. You sit on ideas, procrastinate, allow yourself to atrophy, and then ultimately decide getting back to your marital home half shitfaced is probably going to get you in more trouble than disappearing onto a westbound Greyhound bus route for a week or two until somebody files a missing person’s report.

Admittedly, my laziness is a blessing here. I lost my debit card in an ATM inside of an Arby’s twice last year, and waited until the final hours of my renewal period to decide to probably start writing again. An election year, traditionally, is my time to shine. Around the start of 2020, I figured I’d throw on the jaded black hoodie of my vandal youth and don my “I’m only in it for the horse race” hat and prepare to clown the sinister and false earnestness of the Democratic Party’s primary process while also couching hope that the age of illiterate, frothing-mad fascism of Republican power is waning. This spurt of productivity didn’t materialize, thankfully, or I’d be subjected to an embarrassing internal dialogue as I reviewed those posts, ridiculing my fleeting hope that a man like Bernie Sanders was a Sure Thing after vanquishing a rat-faced neoliberal mayor spouting empty platitudes in a deliberate clusterfuck Iowa Caucus, the narrow triumph in hard-nosed New Hampshire, and a complete, victory-lap worthy blowout in Nevada before watching voter suppression, an in-the-tank media apparatus and the antibodies of the Party Elite work in wish-dashing concert to coronate a senile Blue Dog Democrat with sexual assault allegations to go up against Lawrence Limburger from Biker Mice from Mars in November.

Lawrence Limburger | Villains Wiki | Fandom

How embarrassing that would’ve been, for me. I’m not particularly incisive regarding policy or legislation, but for a moment I had found a reluctant compromise in the Sanders campaign. He’s the only half-decent man to have a viable run for the office since The Party fucked McGovern, so it was only natural for him to crumble under the weight of an oppressive and insincere fetishization of civility and a craving for the same corporate-consolidated “normalcy” that has fucked the average worker since the dawn of economic globalization. As I sit here, at my deemed-essential night shift position, in Plague April reeking of hand sanitizer, I can’t help but feel smug as I reminisce over the last month’s total failure of Holy Free Market Capitalism, and inspired by the acts of Mutual Aid helping keep knots of people afloat. Like a bittersweet Charlie Horse, a spasm of both teenage anarchist “told-you-so” sure-headed glad-handing meets my regrettable cautious optimism that perhaps, representative democracy might do the right thing for once and it might be a laugh to, as ironically as possible, celebrate the Fourth of July in 2021.

It was not to be.

But they had to cheat. Fifteen years of hammering Emma Goldman quotes on electoralism into my brain didn’t dissuade me from getting taken by the siren song of wondering if for once in the thirty years I’ve been on this planet, everything wouldn’t intentionally and systemically suck fucking shit. What a fool, to even momentarily think you could vote your way through a middlemen orc horde snarling on behalf of the pedophile Monopoly Men, when the answer, of course, as I’ve known for most of my adult life, was to come together and raise a mob of Marauders, knives in their teeth, and rampage until the vampires and their world have been reduced to ashes beneath thousands of pairs of vegan Doc Martins. Continue reading “Official Notice Regarding the End of the Unexplained and Unannounced Indefinite Hiatus”

Arvada Police’s Feel-Good Vest Copaganda is Trash

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.

https://twitter.com/coopsie_doodle/status/1090289132121640960

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. Continue reading “Arvada Police’s Feel-Good Vest Copaganda is Trash”

Nicholas Sandmann and the Covington Catholic Kids are Brownshirted Weasels: You’re Being Duped by a PR Firm and Probably Worse

Yesterday, in illustrating my largely “they’re-in-our-division” hatred for the Kansas City Chiefs, I brought up a story that I thought by now would have fizzled out because of common sense and decency. Nicholas Sandmann, the sneering teen made famous for squaring off against Native elder Nathan Phillips over the weekend in Washington D.C., is apparently meeting with Donald Trump in the White House tomorrow as part of the far-right’s active measures campaign to spin the narrative of the Covington Catholic school kids as victims of media bias and a left-wing mob mentality. It’s a predictable extension of the story and one a variety of outlets have fallen for in their hand-wringing about whether or not it’s OK to throw this young bigot and his friends under the bus.

As the waters of the story are muddied, it’s important to understand the basic facts before analyzing exactly what is happening with the rest of the narrative. Sandmann and other students from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky were flown into D.C. to attend the annual March for Life anti-abortion demonstration, where many of them chose to deck themselves out in Make America Great Again regalia. This happened to fall on the same day as the second Women’s March in D.C., also commemorating the ruling on Roe v Wade as well as a protest by indigenous people against the longstanding and continued marginalization of Native Americans.

Evidently either encouraged by chaperones or due to a complete lack of supervision (pick one), the students moved around National Mall in a large group, where they catcalled women, yelled right-wing slogans, and said things like “it’s not rape if you enjoy it”. This caught the attention of a group of Black Israelites, a fixture in many east coast cities notorious for aggressive, street-level proselytizing who began to heckle the group of “future school shooters” as “Donald Trump incest babies.” This interaction apparently got heated and the Native people moved to deescalate the situation, which is when the Covington students famously mocked the Native elder by doing tomahawk chop gestures, mocking “war cries” and even a Maori-inspired “school Haka” not unfamiliar at US sporting events.

Now, even engaging with the Black Israelites is a mistake akin to trying to have a nuanced debate with the Westboro Baptist Church or arguing with Scientologists, but that’s neither here nor there. These kids were roaming D.C. as a brownshirted mob, harassing women, Native and black people well before the escalation that peaked with the students chanting “Build the Wall” at Mr. Phillips. Using the Black Israelite apparent “aggression” as a an excuse for these kids is blatantly racist spin. It’s frankly unsurprising that a decades-old group notorious for yelling on street corners, unprompted, that white people are a race of demons created by an evil scientist on a Greek island chose to engage with a mob of youth screaming at Native people that they’re “drunken thieves” and that black people should “go back to Africa”. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. In no way does any of the par-for-the-course behavior exhibited by the Black Israelites excuse the frothing frenzy exhibited towards Nathan Phillips. Continue reading “Nicholas Sandmann and the Covington Catholic Kids are Brownshirted Weasels: You’re Being Duped by a PR Firm and Probably Worse”

Huge Pay Disparities Mean Denver Public Schools Should Strike, Too

As the first teacher’s strike in 30 years kicks off in LA today, Denver Public Schools looks poised to strike as well if a deal isn’t reached by this Saturday after narrowly avoiding a strike last year. Like most teachers around the country, most cannot afford to live in the districts they teach in and one in five DPS teachers work a second job. Long-standing issues in funding, particularly in regards to property taxes, mean school funding and teacher pay is an obvious issue of racial discrimination and class warfare.

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Administrative and executive salary documents

District salary documents circulating on Facebook detail a massive pay disparity between the average DPS teacher and administrative officials. While a first-year teacher makes less than $45,000 a year, a rate the union is fighting to increase by up to 10% and with the rapid rising costs of living in Denver amounting to basically an inflationary wage raise, executive directors are pulling nearly a quarter-million dollar salary. Anyone that has ever worked within a school system could tell you the teachers are being hosed. The distribution of labor between even a school principal, making upwards of $85,000 per year, and that of a teacher is astronomical: pouring through the documents, DPS has one administrator to manage every 7.5 teachers, yet one teacher for every 40 students. Couple that with the fact that teachers pay hundreds of dollars per year to supply their own classrooms, work countless hours of unpaid over-time grading papers and preparing lesson plans, and without a doubt spend the most time educating and supervising children, it’s no wonder DPS teachers are ready to form picket lines.

Despite initial record profits and promises that the legalization of marijuana would provide an influx of funding for school districts across the state, that is largely not the case. Construction projects (notoriously nebulous processes) and programs like substance abuse prevention or adding counselors are funded through grant programs from marijuana sales taxes, however, teacher’s salaries aren’t addressed because the grants are not a consistent source of budgetary income for the schools and districts. While voters in Colorado likely had issues like this in mind when voting to pass Amendment 64, the nuts and bolts of the funding limitations mean teachers, one of the last widespread unionized professions in this country not connected to health care or law enforcement, get the shaft. Continue reading “Huge Pay Disparities Mean Denver Public Schools Should Strike, Too”