Thursday, April 30, 2015

Red-Line Aggression Redux

OK another Red-line story. This time with a happy ending.

Got on train at Granville headed downtown. Middle car as it is not rush hour and that car will be closest to the exit at Grand. A few minutes in and loud music erupts. A standing tattooed Hispanicy dude (let the stereotyping begin) is talking to a couple of sitting whitish dudes. I can't tell if he is telling them that loud music is not allowed or not, but it sort-of looks like it. Except I can't believe he would be the type. He leaves them and swaggers to the other end of the car. It's his music. He may be drunk. He sits briefly and as we travel he is back up and wandering the car. He makes no attempt to steer clear of women in the car. He is not exactly aggressive but he clearly is into getting too close. Not touching mind you, just getting closer than he needs to get.

This continues until Belmont. Near Belmont he lights up a small cigar/cigarette thing. Several people, myself included move to the other end of the car to get away from the smoke. He swaggers back to our end. Now our end empties as people move to the other end. I start staring at him. He ignores me. No way do I want to start something with this guy who is way younger and tougher than me. But I feel it's important to begin to call out his behavior. If he asks why I may be staring at him I plan to back down. But back down as passively aggressively as I can get away with. He begans a slow saunter back to the other end of the car.

"You need to put that thing out or get off of the car." A young black woman takes the lead. Every insurrection needs a leader. But every leader needs people at their back. "I'm with her," I say. Now it's two against one and we have a chance. Still tough odds, and old (but fit) white guy and a young woman of color. We are at Fullerton. The doors are open but he is not making a move to exit.

Next to me I hear a beep and then a young white woman is at the call button to the train operator. "A guy is smoking on the car."

"No smoking is allowed on the train," comes the authoritative reply from loud speaker.

The guy is floored. He can't believe that he has been successfully called out. He leaves the car. He's become out-numbered three to one and things will clearly become worse if he dares move against a woman and/or an old guy.

Not every asshole on the el can be thwarted. But it is important to assess one's fellow passengers. Some of us are prepared to come together when the conditions allow it. It is asking too much to expect most of us to step up and be the hero leader. But we especially need to be ready to stand with the hero leader when they do step up.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Social Work Cops Instead of Gun Cops

Police work is actually pretty safe, especially compared to a lot of ordinary well paid trades work. Mining and farming are, of course, more dangerous, as is taxi driving. The police do have though a well organized and effective public relations media machine. And that machine ensures that every police death is well publicized.

That machine has been especially needed these last twenty years as police work has become safer and police deaths have declined and indeed their reason for being, crime, itself has declined. While sometimes police forces may have been allowed to stagnate, the idea of actual reductions based on lessening needs has absolutely not been allowed to circulate.

Most people are not aware of the decline of crime in the U.S. Back when there was a lot of crime, much of it was not reported. Dog bites man stuff. But as crime and killing declined the reality shifted. Now its increasing rarity made each instance more newsworthy. So even as crime declined its media reportage stayed the same. So much so that one of Chuy Garcia's campaign suggestions was to increase police "man"-power.

At a time when in communities of color police were recognized as the problem and not a solution, the "progressive" candidate, Chuy Garcia showed a serious lack of sophistication.

When he said that I thought, "what we need are not more police but more social workers." Think that's nuts. Well talk to a gang-unit police commander and you will find that a lot of their work is done on the internet on social media.

Hiring police social workers also holds to potential to fix the racist over-reliance on violent force as a policing tool. Since cop culture requires adoption of a common cynical racist mind-set that punishes whistle-blowing and tattle-telling it would be necessary to start out social work cops in their own segregated units. In their own cars and without guns a brand new culture would become ingrained. When strong enough to stand on their own, these social work cops would then begin spending time cruising the neighborhood with gun-cops. Eventually the gun-cops would work with the social work cops, but without guns. After a shooting a gun-cop would not be put behind a desk, rather they would be sent out sans-gun with a social work cop.

It's a pretty simple thing to do. It costs no more. It's just not the way things are done.