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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"We only shoot black people"

When Lt. Greg Abbott told the white woman he arrested for DUI "We only shoot black people," he wasn't cracking a joke or being sarcastic. He was seriously trying to comfort this woman by clarifying a police lieutenant's understanding of a police policy that has been obscured by the mainstream media. This was only days after the police murder of Philando Castile had been livestreamed on facebook by this girlfriend. That video then made its way to a mainstream media so intent on denying the racist nature of the killing that this white woman could conclude the police treat everyone that way. Abbott was telling her not to worry. They don't kill white drivers for no good reason. Unlike black lives, white lives matter to police.

While the incident happen over a year ago, Abbott's dash cam of the traffic stop only became public 30 August 2017 when WSB-TV aired it. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported on it:
The date stamp on the video is July 10, 2016 — just a few days after Minnesota police shot and killed Philando Castile, whose girlfriend recorded his death with her phone.

Channel 2 Action News first reported the existence of the Abbott tape in its newscast Wednesday night. The footage shows the officer speaking through the car window to a female passenger in a vehicle that had been stopped for suspected DUI.

The woman tells Abbott that she is afraid to reach for her cellphone because “I’ve just seen way too many videos of cops ... ” At that point, Abbott cuts her off.

“But you’re not black,” he says. “Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?”
This wasn't being said by some rogue rookie. Abbott was a Lieutenant, high up in the command staff and a part of department management. He had been with the force for 28 years so he certainly was in a position to know what department policy was on the ground.

This raises the very serious question of just what Cobb County Chief Mike Register meant when he said:
"I have known Lt. (Greg) Abbott for years and perceived him as honorable, but he’s made a mistake. I don’t know what is in his heart, but I know what came out of his mouth. We recommend that he be terminated and we are moving forward on that.”
Why did Chief Register decide to fire Abbott only after the video became public? He knew about it earlier.  Suri Chadha Jimenez, the driver's lawyer in the DUI case saw the video while preparing the case. A good attorney certainly would have brought it to the attention of the department if only to cut a better deal for his client. If Register wasn't aware of it then, we became aware of it when WSB-TV made the FOIA request. Apparently Abbott's statement was acceptable to the chief but the chief knew it was unacceptable to the public. That is why he had to go now that it became public.

Chief Mike Register needs to clarify just what mistake he thinks Abbott made. Was his mistake that of making such a blunt statement about the homicidal racism of his police department, or was he mistaken to think that was department policy?

Since Abbott was a ranking member of the police force, as a lieutenant he was high up in the chain of command and a part of management, and Register was his supervisor and "known [him] for years and perceived him as honorable," No matter how Chief Register answers that question he needs to resign if he is to be perceived as honorable.

Register showed that his concern was for the statement Abbott made on tape and not the reality behind it or even Abbott's perception of that reality, if they thought it was wrong. The mistake he made, as far as they were concerned was saying it outloud. Chief Register would say at the press conference.
“There is no place for those types of comments."
And later:
“No matter what context was, the statements were inexcusable and inappropriate.”
It isn't clear just when Chief Register and Commission Chairman Mike Boyce became aware of Abbott's comments of July 2016, but the day after WSB-TV aired it they held a press conference to denounce this revelation and announce their intention to fire him. It remains to be seen if this will come to pass. Even as they were making their announcement, Abbott was sending an email announcing his retirement.

Abbott was already preparing his defence. AJC reported:
Lt. Abbott’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, argued in a statement that Abbott’s “comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context. He was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger.”

LoRusso said Abbott was trying to “gain compliance by using the passenger’s own statements and reasoning to make an arrest.”
Even though I despise Abbott, I recommend he get a new attorney. This one is clearly incompetent. In the first place nobody was trying to arrest a "passenger" for DUI, in the second place, the driver, who was the only one in the car, never brought up race,  Lt. Abbott did that. LoRusso is right that he did this to de-escalate the situation and gain her compliance. He was trying to do that by making it clear to this white woman that the wave of police killings that so unnerved her was part of a genocidal policy that targeted black people, and so she didn't have to worry.

LoRusso also turned up as the cop's attorney in at least one other recent case that brought charges of racism to the CCPD.  On 6 November 2016 ex-Cobb County officer James Caleb Elliot fired eight shots at a 16-year-old after the cop caught him and three others in a stolen car. The car had been stolen 3 days before, so there was reason to believe the four teenagers inside weren't the violent felons Elliot would later claim he thought they were. He ordered the teens out of the car and knew that they were unarmed. When one of the teens ran away, Elliot went after him with his gun blazing in this residential neighborhood. He fired eight shots and hit two houses before he bought down the youth with a bullet in the leg. Technically Elliot had resigned two days before, so this may have been something of a parting shot.

Elliot was allowed to retire in that case, which raises suspicions of how Abbott's 28 year career will be ended. It should be ended with his immediate firing followed by a through investigation of what his racist attitude has meant for the cases he's handled and the leadership he has provided in all those years, but there is reason to fear he will be allowed to end it with honor. AJC reported:
But Lt. Greg Abbott sent an email to the county announcing that he plans to retire, even as the police chief was on live television saying Abbott would be terminated, according to Commission Chairman Mike Boyce. Boyce said he was unsure how that development would affect the decision to fire the lieutenant.
Cobb County Public Safety Director Samuel Heaton said 1 September that Abbott will be allowed to retire and by doing so he will escape any disciplinary actions. Apparently, this is what they do with racist cops once they have been "outed." They are allowed to retire with their pensions.

Cobb County Police Department was investigated for racism last year after this same cop was accused of harassing Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who is African American. She filed a seven-page complaint with the county police in 2012 after Elliot, who was working undercover, followed her into her subdivision late one night. The Cobb County Board of Commissioners responded to these incidents by paying the the International Association Chiefs of Police $93.000 for a police policy assessment of the county’s police department. The study pointed to a histpry of racial profiling in Cobb County.

Of course, everybody doesn't see it that way, as this comment from a Washington Post reader of their report on this story shows:
The real tragedy is this happened OVER A YEAR AGO. Some reporter went back in time to dig up old footage using the FOIA to smear a decent police officer who was only being sarcastic. Damn. Now ANYTHING you have said in your past will come back to haunt you if a reporter wants to smear you just so they can get a news story out of it. THIS is why America hates MSM.
Sarcasm is a form of humor and there was nothing funny about this. When I first heard the abbreviated version of this story on the CBS Morning News, I thought sarcasm too, but then I assumed he was talking to a black person. Once I heard the fuller version and learned those words were directed towards a white suspect, and that it was the white cop, not the white DUI suspect that interjected race into the event, those claims of sarcasm seemed baseless.

Merriam-Webster defines "sarcasm" as humor "designed to cut or give pain" and "is usually directed against an individual." So if this was sarcasm, was the woman the target? She was the only other person there.  Why would he think that bringing in race would help him hurt her feelings?

"Sarcasm" is the universal explanation of all the racists that support for this cop. Which is not so say that everyone who says the cop was being sarcastic is a racist, just that this is the explanation put forward by those looking to excuse his behavior.

Only Abbott knows if he was even trying to be funny with these comments, and while we haven't heard directly from him on that score, we have heard from his mouthpiece, his lawyer. His lawyer says Abbott was trying to "de-escalate a situation" and "gain compliance." In other words, he wasn't trying to be sarcastic at all. That's why he never gets to the punchline. He really was trying to take away her fear by pointing out to her that she was privileged not to be subjected to the same level of police violence as African Americans.

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