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"I'd like to file a complaint."
February 28, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

"I'd like to file a complaint."

It seems that public - police interactions in the US are becoming more and more Kafkaesque as we move into this Brave New World Order. Some people are working from the grassroots to document this metamorphosis and provide transparency.

The full video this excerpt was pulled from is called "The Largest Street Gang in America".

Copblock is a web clearing house for all matters related to pro-citizen/anti-bad-police activism and awareness raising. They especially like filming police to flex their rights. Police Abuse is a similar outfit with a specialty in taking in and acting on specific complaints against police.

There is a channel on Reddit dedicated to these matters as well. (that's also the via)
posted by Meatbomb (82 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was really hoping this was going to be about the Dead Parrot Sketch.
posted by briank at 8:31 AM on February 28, 2012 [36 favorites]


I am always cautious about sharing this link: Injustice Everywhere. At first it's infuriating to see what goes one every day across the U.S. After some reflection, I came to realize that hey, most of these stories are about bad cops getting busted, and that is good news.
posted by Xoebe at 8:33 AM on February 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I really like how this is a compilation. Makes the "one bad apple" or "that guy needs to be fired" nonsense line much harder to pursue. (Not that it won't be, even right here in this thread.)

Also, one of those clips was from Fox!
posted by DU at 8:34 AM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Never go directly to the desk cop at the station to complain about one of his cronies. That's what lawyers are for. If you can't afford or otherwise scrounge up legal counsel, you'd better have some damning video evidence of the cop's misdeeds that you can show the media (which will then generally get police upper management on the case). Otherwise, sorry pal, you're shit out of luck.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:34 AM on February 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh right, thanks for the reminder.

There will also be a lot of victim-blaming.
posted by DU at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was really hoping this was going to be about the Dead Parrot Sketch.

"The palindrome of Abuse of Power would be Rewop fo Esuba! It don't work!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Oh right, thanks for the reminder. There will also be a lot of victim-blaming.

Who's blaming the victim? What, you think your whining here will fix this?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:36 AM on February 28, 2012


Makes the "one bad apple"

The saying is "one bad apple spoils the barrel". In other words, tolerating even one bad person in your group taints and discredits your whole group. The ways in which police departments and police officers protect and shield bad officers implicate the departments themselves in the "bad apple"'s crimes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:36 AM on February 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


Well it is pretty suspicious. I mean who would choose to speak to a cop without being spoken to first?
posted by Big_B at 8:44 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm also tired of the "one bad apple" metaphor. One bad apple also makes delicious hard cider!

A dirty cop is a dirty cop is a dirty cop.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:46 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who's blaming the victim?

The guy who said this: Never go directly to the desk cop at the station to complain about [a crime]
posted by DU at 8:46 AM on February 28, 2012


Who's blaming the victim? What, you think your whining here will fix this?

Do you honestly think acceptance of the situation is any better? When the official channels for a redress of grievances are broken, then the system is broken, and it needs to be fixed.
posted by deanklear at 8:51 AM on February 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


The guy who said this:

There is a fine line between "useful advice for avoiding victimization" and "victim blaming"; but I thought Burhanistan was pretty clearly on the right side of that line.
posted by steambadger at 8:53 AM on February 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


Anyone who believes that "one bad apple" is an isolated party who doesn't reflect on the whole should check out the opening segment of this This American Life episode.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:54 AM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yep, that's the stark reality of the US police state. Calling what I posted "victim blaming" is frankly asinine and useless.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:55 AM on February 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


Do you honestly think acceptance of the situation is any better? When the official channels for a redress of grievances are broken, then the system is broken, and it needs to be fixed.

The trouble is that this is usually a localized problem. In the town I live in, the cops are almost universally professional and complaints are taken seriously.

Some smaller towns not to far from here...... not so much.

It's usually a top-down problem though. The cops answer to the mayor/citycouncil/alderpeople - if you want to change the way the police force works in your town, make it a priority for the people in those positions.

I fully understand that this is often more complicated in practice than in theory, but the premise still holds.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your solution involves the victim altering their behavior from the channel that is supposed to work, then yes, that's victim blaming.
posted by DU at 8:59 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh well. Enjoy complaining about it from afar. Meanwhile, people with legitimate issues with the police will need to learn how to play the corrupt system or else not get results.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:02 AM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oakland has paid out $57 million in the last 10 years because of their police misconduct. That's not counting the legal fees involved in fighting cases or negotiating settlements.

That's probably close to 50 police officers they would have been able to keep in the last round of layoffs.

Do you think that these cops protecting the corrupt ones, at the end of the day, realise that corrupt cops cost jobs? But I suppose it's easier to blame the guy who bruised the cop's knuckles and then was brought in on a trumped up assaulting a public officer/resisting arrest charge.
posted by Talez at 9:03 AM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I should amend that. You can obviously suggest an alternative secondary method after the right one fails. But blaming the victim for trying the right method first is...well...victim blaming.
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


First of all, DU, I wasn't "blaming" them. Don't go tossing of a loaded terms usually employed in rape situations. You can sit there with a smug sense of moral purity, but the video clips are pretty convincing evidence to pursue alternatives.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:07 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh well. Enjoy complaining about it from afar. Meanwhile, people with legitimate issues with the police will need to learn how to play the corrupt system or else not get results.

This complacency, and the accompanying contempt for people who insist that things need to change, is the problem. Not part of the problem. The problem.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:21 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Burhanistan: Is it still OK to look cops in the eyes? To take pictures of public buildings? To look too dark in a white neighbourhood? To just exercise one's rights in public? Or should everyone know they need a lawyer for that?
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:21 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, please. By all means exaggerate and distort. Enjoy your pity fest.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 AM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Victim blaming requires excusing the perpetrator on the basis of the legal (or otherwise legitimate) conduct of the victim. No one is saying that police departments shouldn't be responsive to complaints brought by ordinary people. No one is saying that the behavior of the police departments in the video is appropriate or should be excused because the victims were doing something unlikely to succeed. What's being offered is practical advice to get the desired result despite police department abuses.

This is the equivalent of suggesting that someone carry pepper spray or take a self-defense course. It shouldn't be necessary, and failing to do so does not excuse violence, but it's still a good idea.
posted by jedicus at 9:28 AM on February 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


No, I'm just as bad as the abusive cops!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is a fundamental issue with human nature. We put cops together and ask they back eachother up, through firefights, riots, disasters, whatever. They form bonds, a brotherhood, they depend on eachother, it is them against everyone else. They are going to back eachother no matter what, even if some of them are bad. We back our family right? Far from being something we can weed out, this is something that makes us human. The ability to form tribes and work cooperatively. Any person who thinks they know right from wrong will quickly find their views changing and twisting as they become part of the tribe.

I think the only way to fix this is to form a competing tribe, independent of the police. IA is still part of the brotherhood no? We need a completely seperate group, with their own identity. A tribe who works in competition with the police. Will probably work great until we see firefights in the streets.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2012


I was really hoping this was going to be about the Dead Parrot Sketch.

I was thinking more the Argument Sketch.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was really hoping this was going to be about the Dead Parrot Sketch.

I was thinking more the Argument Sketch.


No you weren't.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:38 AM on February 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


Never go directly to the desk cop at the station to complain about one of his cronies.

This is actually extremely good advice.

If you fail to follow it, you set yourself up for an attempt to discredit your complaint by charging you with a crime you did not commit, which has happened to a friend of mine who was charged with marijuana possession after complaining about an illegal search.

To characterize this as victim blaming bespeaks a complete lack of experience with cops on the street-- either that, or simple bad faith.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 AM on February 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Guys, please cool it a little. DU, skip the "this is how the thread will go bad" predictions, it improves threads in absolutely no way.]
posted by cortex at 9:41 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


After watching the entire video, I was left still wondering whether or not the police actually have complaint forms. I checked and it looks like we can complain online in Philadelphia.
posted by orme at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2012


10 rules for blaming the victim
posted by Hoopo at 9:52 AM on February 28, 2012


The "immediately request ID" strategy is depressingly effective. In every state, police require reasonable suspicion that you are or have been involved in criminal activity in order to legally require your ID. If they have no reasonable suspicion, they have no right to demand it. Reasonable suspicion is a purposefully vague standard, but it's hard to imagine that simply asking for a complaint form would be sufficient.

So if the cop's response to a request for a complaint form is a demand for your ID, he has no legal right to it and you have no obligation to give it. But in that instance, your only real choices are (1) give the officer your ID anyway, which he could use to make your life difficult, (2) refuse to give it, remain engaged with the officer in hopes of getting the form, and risk detainment or arrest, or (3) refuse to give it and leave. None of those scenarios offer much hope for actually getting the form or making the complaint.

The same logic holds for just about any kind of request or action in dealing with police. As soon as you ask them for their badge number or you seek to take a picture of an unlawful arrest or you see their cruiser splayed across 2 handicapped parking spots, their first act can be to demand your ID. Your practical choices are compliance or disengagement, because most times you will not be up for the time and expense of dealing with the consequences if you choose to stand up for your rights.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is a new model available, I like it a lot. Recently the Oakland Police Review Board cancelled its public hearings, amidst controversy of how they handled Occupy Oakland, and then there was that pesky little matter of the Federal Court that determined the OPD did not comply with their previous 10 years of oversight directives so they put the OPD under Federal control.

So Occupy Oakland held their own Police Review Board.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Burhanistan: Is it still OK to look cops in the eyes? To take pictures of public buildings? To look too dark in a white neighbourhood? To just exercise one's rights in public? Or should everyone know they need a lawyer for that?
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 12:21 PM on February 28 [1 favorite +] [!]


Remember you don't have any rights until a judge gives them to you. Give the cop the ol stinkeye, and get thrown in the lockup for interfering with a police officer. Videotape them, or get caught Driving While Black- same thing. You'll spend hours or days in jail waiting to get before a judge and thousands of dollars trying to get your record cleared up.
posted by Gungho at 10:00 AM on February 28, 2012


god I hate this. I hate cops and I hate the system. I hate the whole mess of it. Yes, I am glad that cops don't usually hassle people of my demographic, but I am still afraid. I am scared of the power they have. I am primarily afraid of the lack of oversight. If they won't get in trouble no matter what they do, then it doesn't matter to me that they are usually helpful.

It's a similar feeling to when you learn that santa and jesus weren't real. The thing you thought was good is actually a predator who might be out to get you. ok that analogy doesn't really hold up quite so well.
posted by rebent at 10:05 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's stuff like this that makes me wanna pack up, become an internal affairs officer, and end up face down in a swamp.
posted by cmoj at 10:15 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


We need a completely seperate group, with their own identity. A tribe who works in competition with the police.

We have community groups that are in competition with the police, and they're called gangs.

I don't mean this sarcastically, only that when I try to think of a state tribe whose interests are aligned with those of the people they serve, even the least powerful, all I can think of are librarians and firefighters. And hooray for both! But they're not going to stop abuses outside of their own direct areas.

Police management is part of the police system, local politicians and judges often seem aligned with police, etc. See for example Chancelor Katehi or Oakland Mayor Quan, both who grew up during periods of intense political activism, but who in office seem to align themselves more with keeping the peace than with the people getting hit with mace and batons and stun grenades.
posted by zippy at 10:15 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You look a little suspicious yourself. You ever been arrested?"

He doesn't say "boy," but lord it sure sounds like he wants to.

"out of nowhere, boom to the face"
posted by mrgrimm at 10:34 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This compilation only lends more weight to a video a lawyer friend of mine posted on their facebook page. The video talks about the 5th ammendment and the dangers of agreeing to talk to the police. You never know what kind of cop you will be dealing with and may end up incriminating yourself for something you didn't even know was illegal.


(sorry if the link doesn't work it's my first time trying to add a link.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc
posted by Gwynarra at 10:34 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't mean this sarcastically, only that when I try to think of a state tribe whose interests are aligned with those of the people they serve, even the least powerful, all I can think of are librarians and firefighters. And hooray for both! But they're not going to stop abuses outside of their own direct areas.

Just a quick shout out to paramedics and teachers. To mention just two.
posted by jaduncan at 10:52 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


librarians

I was thinking of something entirely new but librarians sound cool. Lets give them all guns and send them in to dig through records and deal with complaints.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:59 AM on February 28, 2012


One of my friends in high school was shoot to death by the police. Big surprise? The only black kid in the entire school. What was he doing? Trying to run away from them after his parents called for an AMBULANCE to take him to a mental health clinic. Instead the cops showed up and put 8 rounds in him.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2012


Let's all pile on Burhanistan!
posted by FrereKhan at 11:45 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking of something entirely new but librarians sound cool. Lets give them all guns and send them in to dig through records and deal with complaints.

Fuck yeah. My reign of terror will be brief but shall echo down the ages.

What's that about not giving power to those who want it again?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:51 AM on February 28, 2012


After watching only 15 minutes, the full video had me feeling disturbed, depressed and outraged. Are the police getting more out of control, or are there just more video cameras nowadays? More importantly, what can be done?
posted by Wordwoman at 11:56 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are the police getting more out of control, or are there just more video cameras nowadays?

More video cameras. See my "boom to the face" link. That's pretty standard police behavior. It's only getting caught on tape more than it used to.

More importantly, what can be done?

Litigate. Early and often.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:02 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are the police getting more out of control, or are there just more video cameras nowadays?

Yes, and yes.

More importantly, what can be done?

Elect more public representatives that refuse to go along with ever increasing paramilitarization within local police forces and are against things like tazers as a solution to every interaction between a police officer and a citizen.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:06 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Let's all pile on Burhanistan!

Heh. I think the balance of the thread was that I was correct there. Calling it victim blaming was silly, as was presuming that I had contempt in general for finding this all unjust. The fact is that if you want to bring a complaint or charges against an officer, the last thing you want to do is walk up to the desk officer at the local station who is no doubt in the same tight-knit clan as the cop you want to report. Seeing that as "victim blaming" simply indicates that you were itching to drop that term. I'm fairly confident that the armchair activists here have 1)not had to deal with the cops, and 2) are not doing anything to actually address this issue.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


More importantly, what can be done?

Run for local office.
posted by Shepherd at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2012


The fact is that if you want to bring a complaint or charges against an officer, the last thing you want to do is walk up to the desk officer at the local station who is no doubt in the same tight-knit clan as the cop you want to report. Seeing that as "victim blaming" simply indicates that you were itching to drop that term.

I don't have any problem with your comment, I think it makes sense to bring up that bringing up a complaint directly at a police station is a bad idea. But saying "It's valid and realistic advice, therefore it's not victim blaming" kind of misses the point. For example, in sexual assault discussions many people bring up similarly sensible points about how a person might protect themselves from sexual assault. But in the context of a person having something bad happen to them that they don't deserve, saying they should have done something else generally falls into the category of victim blaming even if it's completely valid advice.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:58 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was thinking more the Argument Sketch.

No you weren't.

Oh, c'mon. We can't have the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

I'm sorry, your time is up.
posted by Twang at 1:10 PM on February 28, 2012


You know what? There are plenty of ways to file a complaint against police misconduct, regardless of what the ignorant officers in the lead video have to say:

For example, against the heavily criticized Seattle Police Department:

Against the Los Angeles Police Department.

Against the Atlanta Police Department

Against the New York Police Department.

How I got these links: I typed "how to file a complaint against [name of city] police department" into Google.

For those MeFites who insist the US is a police state, I'll be very interested to see the corresponding links for places like China, Russia, Myanmar, and other bastions of freedom.
posted by bearwife at 1:27 PM on February 28, 2012


Actually I wouldn't be surprised if China did have a convenient place to file complaints against the police/party. And that you'd be very unwise to use it.
posted by bitmage at 1:38 PM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


> For those MeFites who insist the US is a police state, I'll be very interested to see the corresponding links for places like China, Russia, Myanmar, and other bastions of freedom.

That's really not the issue, though. Sure, it's pretty bad in other places but much better in others. Neither of which really helps the people in that video.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:44 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Stop complaining about that boot on your neck, you can totally breathe! And you're not quite blacking out, are you? Fucking whiner."
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:11 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is so frustrating to see what bullies many of these cops are.

"Give me what I want."
"I politely decline to do so."
"GIVE ME WHAT I WANT. NOW!"
"I think I'm going to leave now."
Gets out the cuffs.
posted by Phreesh at 2:40 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The saying is "one bad apple spoils the barrel". In other words, tolerating even one bad person in your group taints and discredits your whole group.

One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl. I don't care what they say. I don't care what you've heard.
posted by layceepee at 3:07 PM on February 28, 2012


I was thinking of something entirely new but librarians sound cool. Lets give them all guns and send them in to dig through records and deal with complaints.

This is close to the premise of Toshokan Senso.

I typed "how to file a complaint against [name of city] police department" into Google.

I don't know how it is for those other cities, but the OPA in Seattle is a joke. Here are two consecutive paragraphs from a recent news story about an SPD officer threatening to fabricate evidence to get someone locked up:
We showed Seattle Police Sergeant Sean Whitcomb the arrest video, and he admits the 'make stuff up' comment was inappropriate. But he says the department's Office of Professional Accountability investigated the complaint and exonerated the officer.

"I can tell you we take (complaints) seriously but people have to believe that and they have to trust the system they have to trust the process," Whitcomb said.
Sergeant Whitcomb is the head, I believe, of the SPD's public affairs office. Here he is telling a reporter that: 1) the behavior on the tape is inappropriate but 2) the officer was exonerated by the OPA and 3) we have to trust the system and process for handling complaints. If the behavior was inappropriate, why did the OPA exonerate the officer?
posted by hades at 3:58 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bad apples among these police just ruin it for the other 5%.
posted by bert2368 at 6:18 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is the second half of the video the same as the first? I lost interest.

Why didn't they take the cops up on the offer to explain their complaint, then get a copy of the report made, and document the follow-up process?

I say that not because I think the cops are great and wouldn't try to blow you off. I say that because if I had a complaint against a cop, I wouldn't expect to get simply handed a form to fill out. I expect that someone would actually sit down and take my statement onto a standard interview form, have me sign it (and yes, I would expect to have to show ID of some sort.) Then I would expect to get a copy of the form I signed and a number to call to check on the status.

Of course, then I would expect to hear nothing until I called about it several times, then get told that it was "looked into" and not actionable. But at least I'd have documentation that I complained and be able to (at great difficulty, maybe) get it in writing what the decision was. For later evidence.

So I'm not a bit shocked or outraged by this video, and I don't think that makes me a victim blamer.
posted by ctmf at 7:48 PM on February 28, 2012


if I had a complaint against a cop, I wouldn't expect to get simply handed a form to fill out

Why not? I mean, what's the problem, exactly, with giving citizens a complaint form and waiting to see what the written complaint is before getting defensive?

Also, the fact that you're already cynical enough to expect nothing to happen after a complaint makes the first part of your comment read very strange.
posted by mediareport at 8:00 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I expect nothing to happen when I complain anywhere, not just the police. That way I'm pleasantly surprised sometimes.

I wouldn't say there would be a problem exactly, with handing out a form. I'd just expect it to work exactly the same as if I had a complaint against my neighbor for playing his music too loud, or whatever. You don't fill out a form, you tell your story to an officer, who takes the complaint just like I said.
posted by ctmf at 8:46 PM on February 28, 2012


> Why didn't they take the cops up on the offer to explain their complaint, then get a copy of the report made, and document the follow-up process?

Because in nearly all of those cases in the video, it seems as if the cop was taking it upon himself to screen that person's complaint and make a judgement about whether or not it was worth passing along. All those people wanted to do was file a complaint without police interference.

Now, say that Officer Shinyboots pulled you over earlier that night and said some shitty things to your wife. So, you go to the station and tell Sgt. Deskjockey that. Sgt. tells you to wait while he goes back to get a file or something. What will Sgt. Deskjockey do? He'll call Officer Shinyboots and tell him that some asshole is there making trouble for him. Well, it's time to detain you because Shinyboots says something about probable cause or some such nonsense.

That's scenario is obviously not always going to happen, but cops are going to look out for each other for most things up to a certain threshold. Starting higher up in the police chain of command or looking for legal mechanisms to file complaints is always going to be more effective than just interfacing directly with the cop on duty down at the local substation. That's not how things should be, but that's how they are. No amount of finger wagging on the internet will change that.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 PM on February 28, 2012


bearwife: For those MeFites who insist the US is a police state, I'll be very interested to see the corresponding links for places like China, Russia, Myanmar, and other bastions of freedom.

Burhanistan: That's really not the issue, though. Sure, it's pretty bad in other places but much better in others. Neither of which really helps the people in that video.

This. How low are we setting the bar if we need to compare ourselves to China, Russia or Myanmar to look good.
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The complainer should have rescinded his request for a form to complain about whatever his grievance once and instead asked for a form to complain about the problems he had procuring a complaint form.
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:07 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because in nearly all of those cases in the video, it seems as if the cop was taking it upon himself to screen that person's complaint and make a judgement about whether or not it was worth passing along.

That would make a better video. Telling them what your complaint is, and then recording them trying to tell you "oh that? THATs not a complaint." Or recording some actual intimidation tactics. Or recording them taking your complaint and then record the non-existence of said complaint the next day.
posted by ctmf at 9:16 PM on February 28, 2012


I guess the better response to "tell me your complaint right now" would probably have been "what is going to happen then? Are you going to write it down? Then what?" instead of "I don't want to do that."
posted by ctmf at 9:20 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That would make a better video. Telling them what your complaint is, and then recording them trying to tell you "oh that? THATs not a complaint."

Maybe that would make a better video, but wasn't the point of the video to demonstrate how difficult it was to lay one's hands on a complaint form? There wasn't an actual complaint to make. And if they had fabricated one then that could have been an actual offence. (No idea if would be or not but it sounds likely.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:23 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


> That would make a better video.

It seems more like those people filming their attempts to file a complaint were doing so for their own protection, not just to stir up shit.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That would make a better video...Or recording some actual intimidation tactics

I saw plenty of actual intimidation in that video. You want a form? Tell me first and I'll decide whether you can have one. You want a form? Have you been arrested? You trying to leave? Show me your photo ID, now!

Did you see those too?
posted by zippy at 11:10 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I say that because if I had a complaint against a cop, I wouldn't expect to get simply handed a form to fill out.

That's exactly what you should expect. You have the right to fill out a complaint form, it doesn't matter why you want it. It's not for the desk officer to judge whether a complaint is valid or to withhold forms necessary for the process of making a complaint.
posted by i feel possessed at 11:31 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


what's the problem, exactly, with giving citizens a complaint form

Not all departments have forms. Or stations.

Chicago has a phone line (with afterhours voice mail), online, by mail or with a CPD supervisor. There's no complaint form, you just write a letter about the incident and provide contact information.

I don't know where the video is shot. But in Chicago, the supervisors have to register the complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) or the Internal Affairs Division.

So the problem off the bat with whoever is taking the complaint, or giving the form, whatever, is to ascertain the nature of the complaint. Because if it's based on excessive or deadly force, domestic violence or verbal (racial) abuse or coercion it goes to the IPRA. For procedural stuff as well as drug use or thefts, its the IAD.

By state law, anyone making an allegation against a cop has to sign a sworn affidavit certifying it's true or believe it to be true. So, y'know, identifying yourself.

It's a legal document, at least out here, so you can't just hand one over. Someone could simply write out the complaint and drop it off.

So, from there, this is sort of agitation. The guy even said "don't hit me" at one point. It's like dressing up in a rabbit suit parading in front of a wolf. Police act certain ways under certain conditions. Here they were baited with a purposeful misunderstanding of procedure.

That said, yes, it's obvious there was intimidating behavior here. To what end?

Filing a false police report is a crime. It is suspicious behavior to want to file a report and not give your name. People do perjure themselves. Securing execution of a document by deception is a felony.

So he was pretty much baiting the cops. That's given just the edited footage here. Not whatever was cut.
A good question would have been: "How do I file a complaint? What is the process?"
Not "I want a complaint form."
And in any case, the guy assigned to take your complaint needs name, address, phone, blah blah.
Not real Orwellian really.

The stuff after that, yeah, gets ugly, unquestionably. And clearly the police in the video don't know how to execute the policy or offer any public service.

The "immediately request ID" strategy is depressingly effective

One can always carry a passport.
Although I got hassled for carrying my military ID. Strange. But you can't fight the stupid, just the programming. If you complain nothing happens, you might as well not bother. Oh my back hurts, it's not a very fine day and I'm sick and tired of this office.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:19 AM on February 29, 2012


(Of course, it goes without saying, given abuse, they should be hunted down and put into a wickerman. We should have a lower tolerance for crimes committed by law enforcement than anything else.)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:28 AM on February 29, 2012


Filing a false police report is a crime. It is suspicious behavior to want to file a report and not give your name.

Nobody was asking to file a report. They were asking for a form on which to do same, so they could do it in a considered manner, free from being interrogated by the buddies of the person that you're complaining about.

There's nothing at all suspicious about that. On the contrary. These people are public servants. I pay their wages. If I ask them for a form (and what's really being asked is what the procedure for complaining is) then I expect you to answer my questions (or provide said form) promptly and politely, without attempting to interrogate me as to the issue. You can do that *after* you've received my complaint.

People do perjure themselves. Securing execution of a document by deception is a felony.

And the convenient assumption that we've got to interrogate anyone who wishes to complain because they may be deciding to perjure themselves, or they may be seeking to deceive us is precisely the kind of attitude that lets police perpetuate this lack of service to the community that pays them to serve.

If you complain nothing happens, you might as well not bother.

On the contrary. When you do it, do it effectively. Document everything, use a lawyer and make the fuckers pay.

Only then, sooner or later, will somebody with some clout start getting a clue about this stuff.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:32 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


A good question would have been: "How do I file a complaint? What is the process?"

That question is asked multiple times, starting from the very beginning of the video: "I want to file a complaint. Is there like a form or something?" "I want to know how you go about filing a complaint on a cop." Etc, etc.
posted by mediareport at 5:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


They were asking for a form on which to do same, so they could do it in a considered manner, free from being interrogated by the buddies of the person that you're complaining about.

Except not all procedures are the same. Not all police departments have forms. Some of the ones that do require certain procedures.

The Chicago Police Department, as I mentioned, allows you to just write a letter. So if you go to the CPD and keep asking them for a form, yes, they're likely to get pissed off once they tell you it doesn't exist and try to take your information so they can file the report you say you want to make.

Of course, if they really were colluding with their buddy to prevent the complaint why not let you file one then toss it? Or, as is mentioned, just rely on the system to fail and not follow up on complaints?
Or if it's not notarized - because if you didn't fill it out in front of a police officer or other official (or notary public) - your signature on it it might not count.
Which, again, is a big waste of everyone's time, no?

Plenty of things to be said about police misconduct. But this film doesn't logically say it.
It's emotional enough though.

So granting that, the films point then is illustrative. Fine by me. We need more vigilance and oversight over police affairs.
This isn't it though.

You can do that *after* you've received my complaint.
Except the process of filing and making the complaint are not, in some places, mutually exclusive. If you fill out a form that says "Officer Blue killed Malcolm X and John Lennon and Fred Hampton." and it doesn't have your information on it, it's going right in the garbage. It is *not* a complaint, it is a rant.
You want to pay cops to sit and listen to or read rants? Or investigate crimes?

And the convenient assumption that we've got to interrogate anyone who wishes to complain...

I find the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution very convenient, thanks.
Or are you asserting police officers don't have constitutional rights?

"I want to file a complaint. Is there like a form or something?" "I want to know how you go about filing a complaint on a cop."

Yes, and police said things like "that ain't the way it works" which would be referencing how the procedure works, which would be giving them information.

For example - I want to file a complaint. Is there a form or something?
'No, that's not how that works'
But I want a form.
'If you want to file a complaint then give me your information.'
'All I want is the form. Why can't you just give me a form?'
'If you're charging someone with abuse, I need to know what it's about'
I just want a form though.
Etc.

The cop in the beginning (edited) while his belligerence is obvious, so too is the fact that he's trying to get a point across that there is a procedure he has to follow when a complaint is to be filed.
The guy then asks: "So there's not like just a form I could just take? Something like that?"
And the cop says "Am I not speaking English?"

Which, seems to me, is indicative that he feels there is a breakdown in communication rather than preventing communication.

I dunno, I've seen mothers get pretty sideways over their own kids when they keep asking them for cookies at water parks or ski lifts where there are no snack shops or anything for miles.

And the rest of it is full of jump cuts.
It's funny how so many otherwise reasonable critical thinking people completely just ditch that depending on the subject matter.
Oh, it's cops, so fuck 'em if the media plays fast and loose with things like evidence or cuts off police and hops all over the place in and out of context.

Seriously, you can't accept that there are police abuses, that perhaps this film is completely correct in the general assertion, but perhaps not cogent in explication?
Really?
So it's perfectly ok if police did this?
'Do you confess to murdering 12 nuns and a rabbi?"
'What? I *FFFFT* confess to *FFFFT* murdering *FFFFT* nuns *FFFTT* rabbi *FFFT* I *FFFT* don't want *FFFT* lawyer *FFFFT* my *FFFT*.

Yea, there's proof right there. Or don't we all hate murderers? You don't like murderers do you? So then why don't you believe this heavily edited film talking elements out of context and using no specific information at all? Murder is bad isn't it?

So can we accept then that murder is bad but attempting to remedy crime and catch murders is made counterproductive when the police do things like manufacture evidence or generate false confessions, etc?

The protection of innocents aside, it really ups the noise to signal ratio and you let the actual bad guy get away with a crime. So it's good to focus on a specific thing and support it with objective evidence *as well as* charge it with emotion and real life events.

See, here's a good documentary. It can be done well.
This? Not so much. Police hate-porn really. Doesn't do much but wind you up and distort your thinking without informing you or empowering you.
As opposed to the Fred Hampton documentary above which is informative, empowering, illustrative but descriptive as well, involves real life but very cogent even as it pisses you right off at the CPD.

But whatever. Media is training us more and more that being pissed off = doing something/being involved.
I think the only real countercultural media would be one that genuinely makes you think, arouses your passion, and engages you with ways to get involved.

"If you complain nothing happens, you might as well not bother."
On the contrary...

Yeah, no that's from the argument sketch. Monty Python reference.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:04 PM on February 29, 2012


"I find the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution very convenient, thanks.
Or are you asserting police officers don't have constitutional rights? "

NO! Police do NOT HAVE RIGHTS. That is the whole POINT of rights - to protect US from the government, and their henchmen!

God, seeing that cop saying, again and again, "It's a free country, it's a free country" really, really pissed me off. Rights are not for you! They are for us, give them back!
posted by rebent at 4:06 PM on February 29, 2012


NO! Police do NOT HAVE RIGHTS
The individual officers don't have constitutional rights?

really, really pissed me off.
Yep. Me too. Didn't stop me from thinking though.

Y'know too, we have this mentality (not you specifically rebent, or anyone, just generally), on whatever side of the political spectrum, or off it, just our general information environment is such that the tides turn on that.
As though what we see (on t.v. or etc) is real and our feelings connected to it have to be that much more amplified.
And we have a sort of - again, no matter the cause or political belief - bait and switch thing going on mentally all the time.
Such that we never really notice it.

I mean, I'm pretty sympathetic to this. That thing with the woman where they were forcing her clothes off really upset me. But I guess where that sort of turned for me.
I thought "I have to do something about this" and then I'm thinking "Like what?"
And I've got a small arsenal and I'm well trained so...
But after I came to my senses, I'm thinking rationally. What effectively can I do?
And the attendant thought was "What's the assertion?"
And really, there isn't one.
Police are bad. M'kay?
About it.
And to get that point across, to make it seem to our brains like something is going on, there are various things presented as facts and documentation, but without context.

And we're distracted from that.
Glen Beck does that.
It's the same song and dance. Albeit a greatly different tune.
But he himself has said he's a rodeo clown.

I heard that one time and I'm thinking WTF does that mean?
But now, and with this, I'm thinking, you get the bull all pissed off. And pissed off at the cowboy. So once the cowboy falls, you need a rodeo clown to distract it.
So you chase the clown. Then the cowboy runs off and the clown dives behind a wall or something and all you can really do is just pointlessly headbutt a barrel for 30 minutes to work off your rage.

Meanwhile, all the things that put you in the rodeo, the breeders, the transporters, the fans who pay money to keep the thing going - all emerge unscathed thanks to the colorful, enraging little guy who dances around in front of you and guides your energy into fruitless barrel butting.

We've become so used to that as a media tactic we seem to think it's how we're supposed to present information.

So yeah, I'm with you on the cop thing. And if I wanted I could dance around and be a rodeo clown here. Misunderestimate what people say, give PeterMcDermott some grief because he didn't catch the Monty Python reference. Play with people's words, all that.

I don't. And I'm not doing that here. In small part because I never have. I'm always in earnest unless I'm simply joking. No troll in me. Oh, I like fightin' But my aim is at the truth.

The "mostly" part of that is not because I'm such a swell guy. I'm just too simple minded to do that. And I don't have stamina that way. Run all day, sure. Argue blue in the face, yep. Play rope-a-dope on the web, zzzzzz.

And I'm not doubting the commitment of the film makers. I have no idea or evidence either way.
I'm just criticizing the film and the logic and showing how the method works. Not because I'm some genius, you see it enough and if you pay attention it's easy to catch.

And so I think we all know that rights are universal. Me, you, Joe Cop, Nazis, child molesters. The speech you don't like, the action you don't like, is where you have to catch yourself and make sure you're paying attention to the rules.

Maybe it hits me because I might actually go and shoot someone and the reality sets in. I dunno. Probably not a good thing, no?

I've got a buddy who just doesn't care at all about anything non-material. Politics, whatever, if it's not (metaphorically) two feet in front of him and made of stone, it's got no bearing on his life.
Which I find admirable in some ways, but excruciating. He can just leave in the middle of a movie. Really good movies. Something even he likes. Aww, hell with it, just goes. Doesn't deal in the abstract. Understands it, but gives it no bearing beyond solid effects. Which he then deals with in as effective a manner as possible.
I wish I could pull that off.

Part of why I read this stuff - especially something I disagree with.
Wouldn't be giving anything back if I didn't point out what I see from my perspective.

I don't see anything convincing. Just visceral appeal. Which again, doesn't address the actuality of police abuse or anything documented. It's just done poorly and you're not given anything but the rodeo ride.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:58 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


We so love inventing toys for thugs though : A vortex gun fires donut-shaped rings of air that hold themselves together, by giving these vortices an electric charge, pepper spray can be sent over 150 feet at between 60 and 90 mph.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:53 AM on March 4, 2012




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