Transparency if it suits them.

Andrew Brown’s killing by 7 N.C. cops was recorded by body cameras. The criminal-industrial complex is working hard to suppress the video’s release.

The killing of Andrew Brown last week by Pasquotank County sheriff deputies may or may not have been justified.

The cops claim that Brown was a dangerous felon and tried to escape while they served his arrest warrant. His family calls bullshit. The family’s lawyer claims that the 20 seconds of video reluctantly shown to Brown’s family show an execution by cops.

I don’t know what really happened or whether the cops were justified in killing Brown or whether they murdered murdered. For the moment, I’m withholding my opinion about the legality of this homicide.

But there’s no question that this incident is yet another demonstration of so much that’s wrong in American law enforcement.

Once again, cops have shot a man in the back.

Once again that man was Black.

Once again the cops have already jumped out ahead of the inevitable PR storm, put out their own story of what happened, and claimed that they were doing their job and the Black man was a dangerous criminal.

Once again the body camera video is being tenaciously withheld from both the public and the victim’s family.

Once again the system is withholding information from the people who own that system: the taxpayers and citizens.

The American Criminal-Industrial Complex

The usual excuse for withholding body cam video is, ‘it’s part of an ongoing investigation.’ Poppycock. These cops need time to get their lies straight, and their prosecutors, judges, and politicians are helping them.

This story exposes how difficult it is in North Carolina to get a straight story. And it exposes how difficult it is to get body camera video released: First the sheriff was on vacation. Then the prosecutors were all too busy to be bothered. Then the sheriff claims that it’s not up to him. Then the prosecutors claim a judge has to approve the release. Then the governor claims helplessness. Then the cops release a select 20-seconds of video, but only to the family. And the video is redacted.

All of that is the result of intentional delay tactics. It’s the intentional legal obfuscation by racist North Carolina lawmakers and the deeply entrenched Us-Against-Them world view of cops. In this case, especially, southern racist sheriffs. The ones who have seen Blacks as criminals since the Antebellum. The ones who got started by capturing, torturing, raping, and killing runaway slaves. The ones who, immediately after the South lost the Civil War, restarted the exact same practices and added kidnapping and forced labor-for-profit to their illustrious history. The ones who continued those same practices up until and more recently than the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

But there’s nothing unique to North Carolina about all of this. The state is just more blatant about — and proud of — it’s institutional racism than some (but not all) others.

Indeed, there’s nothing about the racism in our criminal justice system that’s even unique to Southern states or bigot sheriffs. Institutional racism permeates all aspects of the American legal system in all 50 states – both criminal and civil law.

Andrew Brown’s homicide by cops is a prime example of how the law enforcement “profession,” cop culture, prosecutors, judges, politicians and laws all come together to maintain historic racist practices and institutions.

America’s entire criminal justice system contributes to protecting bad cops and enabling their criminal conduct. There is both functional indifference and the active intent of the interacting elements. And it undermines the entire mission of the criminal “justice” system in America: justice for all.

Throw in the poorly-negotiated labor contracts that benefit cops more than they benefit the people employing the cops. (Those contracts are negotiated between cop unions and complacent city county councils or complacent sheriffs and county councils.) Taxpayers can hardly even get rid of bad cops.

And the entire system is geared toward preserving secrecy and preventing transparency by the public. The entire system is geared to preventing the public from examining it in meaningful detail. It’s geared the status quo, and is ever hardening itself against meaningful change.

We The People have built, own, and operate a criminal justice system that not only routinely lies to us about specific incidents of misconduct and criminal conduct by cops. It also refuses to collect the kinds of data we need to truly understand how bad the problems are — collectively, and in individual law enforcement agencies.

Don’t call it the criminal justice system.

Call it the Criminal-Industrial Complex.

Half of all cops are probably of below-average integrity. Let real data prove me wrong, and I’ll be very happy.

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