Kids Lives Matter…The New Face of Poor Policing

In Sept 2015, Six-year old Jeremy Mardis was shot and killed by Marksville Law Enforcement. Photo by Chris Few.

Look closely at the image of Jeremy Mardis, age 6. He will no longer go to school; never play baseball, never get an “A” in Phys Ed, never have a girlfriend; never, never, never grow up…all thanks to the overly-zealous efforts of Marksville, Louisiana police officers.

“There’s a juvenile,” is heard stated in a flat, matter-of-fact manner, as if it is of little consequence. In the background can be heard another officer, one with a heart utter, “Oh, no…” his voice trailing. Of course, we do not know if he is concerned that he killed a child or that he is likely to be in trouble–perhaps some of both.

To view the video which was just released today, go to CNN here.

Jeremy Mardis was shot five time by Marksville Marshall’s who flooded the stopped vehicle in which the boy was riding with a flurry of lead–18 shots were fired at the suspects vehicle after it stopped at the end of a dead end street. The boy’s father was wounded; Jeremy died at the scene. What serious crime started this tragic event? Why should we care?

Everyone Is A Criminal

Police today know something you and I do not…Everyone is a criminal. Don’t believe me? Next time you see police officers ‘hanging out,’ listen to the conversations. You will often hear expressions such as…

“You gotta watch out for them.”

“They are all bad.”

And my personal favorite,

“If you don’t shoot them, they will shoot you.”

I have personally heard law enforcement in the last couple of decades speak like this. These are common utterances coming from police officers who will likely never be involved in such a fatality. Still, there is an underlying element of “us versus them” to such speech and it is this element that makes it so easy for police to shoot at someone who is in no way a danger to them.

In fact, it was the United States Supreme Court which opened the door to these events. In 1989, under the direction of Chief Justice William Reinquist, that the Court reasoned that if police are reasonably in fear of their life, they can shoot to kill. It has been open season on Americans ever since.

What Did Mr. Mardis Do That Struck So Much Fear into these Police Officers from Marksville, LA?

Simply put, he fled.

Marksville, LA is located in the center of the state just southeast of Alexandria, LA. Jeremy Mardis was shot five times by law enforcment in this community of just under 6000 people. Yes, Police in small towns are just as likely to kill innocents as large cities.
Marksville, LA is located in the center of the state just southeast of Alexandria, LA. Jeremy Mardis was shot five times by law enforcment in this community of just under 6000 people. Yes, Police in small towns are just as likely to kill innocents as large cities.

The view among Law Enforcement today is such that anyone avoiding them MUST be guilty of SOMETHING. And no matter what it is, it MUST be a crime. Since it is a crime, the person is a criminal. And ALL criminals are scum…right?

I worked in Corrections for a time. It was not for me. The reason?

A week did not pass when I had a ranking officer tell me to perform an act that was not just a violation of policy, but in most cases, a felony. I was told to falsify official documents and even lie about inmate activities so as to get them into trouble because someone did not like the inmate; I was once coaxed into stating that I was in fear in a certain situation, though I was not. The reason?

Ranking officers wanted to get rid of the inmate, a trusty. To be fair, this inmate had a temper problem, but at no time during the situation which arose did I fear him. He had recently gotten bad news, so maybe that was the reason for his behavior–I don’t know. I, for once, played along and he was gone. I later learned that the ruling would send him back to General Population and any chances of Parole were off the board. All because of one bad day. All because someone in charge at the prison did not like him, wanted him gone, and they had their chance.

While I was there, I witnessed Ranking Officers steal from the state, I heard of an inmate being killed intentionally, and I witnessed acts against mental health inmates which, while not exactly criminal, are most unethical.

One of the common crimes among the Sargents is do is cover for each other when working off-site–one will “burn off” for the night while drawing overtime pay. Later, the other will do the same. Anyone opposing this practice is treated as a pariah. The environment reminded me of the movie Serpico, where everyone is on the take.

That said, the official position of the Department of Criminal Justice for which I worked was that all inmates should be treated in a fair way. This patentedly did not happen. When I left, I told the Warden the truth–I did not trust his Supervisors (ranking officers). They were going to get someone into deep trouble. I had already reported some of the goings on and nothing was done.

“Criminals exist on both sides of the bars in at least one prison that I know of.”

The number one expression I heard while there?

“It’s just a fucking inmate.” – Daily

Jeremy Mardis Clearly Had a Criminal Father, Right?

If you call arguing with your girlfriend a crime, yes.

That was the precipitating event. Police passing notice the couple arguing outside of a business, a bar. On stopping, Mardis ended the argument and fled police. Wrong thing to do, but he did.

Police then chased the car to a dead-end street. The car stopped and backup arrived. Situation under control, right?

Apparently not. Because then police found it necessary to open fire on the stopped vehicle. Colonel Michael Edmondson of the Louisiana State Police called it,

“The most disturbing thing I have ever seen.”

Why?

Perhaps because the Marshall’s who fired the shot automatically claimed to be in fear for their life–a claim utterly demolished by the video footage from the body cam worn by a responding agency officer. In fact, the two officers, Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse claimed that the driver rammed one of their cars just prior to them shooting.

The video shows otherwise. In fact, Mardis’ father is seen with his hands in the air leaning out of the driver’s side just before the shooting.

However, further demonstrating the general attitude of even those in charge, Col. Edmondson also attempted to downplay the killing of Mardis by saying,

“He did not suffer.”

Oh, well. Then I guess it was not all bad.

Yes, Mardis’ Father WAS a danger to Police BECAUSE HE WAS A CRIMINAL

Jeremy’s Father, Chris Few, was a criminal. Or was he? No weapon was found his vehicle and one of the police on the scene stated he was not a danger. Furthermore, the officers involved claimed initially that they followed Few because he had warrants. False, according to Edmondson.

Ok, so he fled and a high-speed pursuit is a danger to the public. No, it seems the pursuit was NOT a high-speed chase. Still, many will lay the claim that he must have been guilty of something in an effort to deflect attention away from two criminal cops.

No matter how it is stacked, there appears to be a growing number of police officers who become violent for nothing. Sure, it is a stressful job, but the wrong attitudes and actions can make it even more stressful.

I worked as a Correctional Officer for just under a year. That was all I could stand. I entered the criminal justice field hoping to be a positive influence on inmates. I hoped to make a difference. That was why I had the degree in Criminal Justice.

And, I joined what is touted among “experts” as one of the best prison systems in the world–the others must be simply horrific.

Former Drug Czar William Bennett once stated,

“If a person is arrested, he must be guilty of a crime. If he wasn’t guilty, he wouldn’t be arrested.”

Nice.

Never heard better circular reasoning. But we must bear in mind that he was part of the Reagan “Just Say No” and “Get touch on crime” movement. He was in the forefront of the Drug War and as leader, he set the pace.

Now the hens are coming home to roost. The leadership of the “Get Tough” folks is resulting in an “Us versus Them” mentality. I know many police and each one, when asked honestly, will admit that they often hear to treat everyone like criminals.

Of course, William Bennett was affectionatly called the Drug “Czar” by Reagan and he accepted the title. The Constitution is clear in stating that “no citizen” shall receive a title of nobility. A Czar is Russian for King. Accepting the title was a clear violation of the law.

Oh, but the Law Doesn’t Apply to Those in Charge

At the prison, the number one excuse applied to wrongdoing was that “nothing will happen, rank is on our side.” One ranking official put it to me like this, however. He said, “The rules and laws are designed to either help you or hurt you, depending on the attitude of those hearing your case and how well you present it.” This same officer considered all inmates to be scum.

I consider them to be my American brothers and sisters who did something stupid…in many cases, only once.

Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse, the two police officers who killed Jeremy Mardis, are now facing charges. Likely, the two officers are torn up over what happened, I cannot say. Aside from having their lives upturned, anyone with any conscience at all would be haunted at killing an innocent child, regardless of how foolish the parents.

One thing is certain: The laws that once protected errant and violence-prone police are now being used to prosecute. Hopefully, we will tire of having police shoot at will then claim “I was afraid.”

I say, stop hiring cowards.

When at the prison, I noted that there were three types of officers.

  1. Criminal – those who should be on the other side of the bars.
  2. Professional – very few of these. Anyone wanting to do the job the way the state outlines is ostrasized and eventually eliminated either by setting them up for a fall or destroying their family life. It happens daily in America.
  3. Along for the Ride – Most officers are not bad and few are great. Most just go along with those in charge, not causing ripples, nor avoiding doing the very things which could land them in prison as well. These are essentially cowards.

Politics being what it is, the tide is turning again. Police Officers everywhere should take heed. The days of Wild West in the cities is over.

Finally, if we learn anything from the sad case involving Jeremy Mardis it is this:

“KIDS LIVES MATTER”

With so many people arguing race over the “Black Lives” versus “All Lives” Matter movements, perhaps we can come together under this banner. The simple fact is that violence-inclined police are no longer satisfying their bloodlust on black or white adults–they are killing our children at a rate never before seen.

KIDS LIVES MATTER–NO MATTER WHAT

The instances wherein a child is killed at the hands of Law Enforcement should be low and it is. However, when a child is killed by overly zealous police, there should be no quarter.

No matter the reason, if a law enforcement officer kills a child, there should be automatic murder charges. This will cull the herd, so to say, eliminating any law enforcement officer who fails to adapt to shifting public opinion and the political winds. Still, the winds of politics may need a nudge.

If we force Congress to pass such a bill, police may curb their appetite for blood. Bear in mind, the next child to die at the hands of cowardly police could be yours. It could happen over something as simple as having an argument with your spouse in public.

Something needs to be done to stop the antagonism that exists between the public and police. It could be as simple as eliminating the bad ones and returning to the Principles of Sir Robert Peel, who founded modern policing in order to avoid the exact situation we face today. Peel believed that police are part of the community and should treat people like neighbors, not automatic suspects.

Positive changes in policing will only come from our leadership. The era of “Get Tough” needs to end. Lives are at stake. Black lives, white lives, and the lives of clearly innocent children. Enough already.

If you agree, please share this post. Only by a groundswell from the public will the leadership stop endorsing poor enforcing.

Remember: Kids Lives Matter…Jeremy Mardis Mattered. But he is just a memory now. As are all those killed in the name of the law.

CJOakes
at