Friday, May 14, 2010

To Protect and Serve Illusions

Since I graduated high school, I have slowly become disenchanted with the police "good guy" image that my parents instilled in me.  In the last year, their actions have been so irresponsible that they've left me without any remaining confidence in them.  I now loathe them.  The final straw came on heels of the most recent arrest of a "Person of Interest" in the recent Waldo Rape cases, which is an example of police ineptitude and abuse, but not in the way you might think.

In my home town of Lee's Summit,  a suburb of Kansas City, I was always aware that the police were more interested in harassing teenagers and giving tickets than they were of catching criminals and thieves.  Late at night however, when I was a night stock manager at Hy-Vee, the police would stop in from time to time and were mostly helpful.  I occasionally saw true compassion and a willingness to help.

In 2004, I landed a job that exposed me to the everyday operations of the Kansas City police.  I was shocked to see a general lack of interest in helping people.  These were jaded cops, annoyed with the day-to-day barrage of stupid people.  They would help people if they had to, but mostly avoided paperwork.  By 2006, I left to attend college in Columbia, MO and promptly forgot about the KCPD.

I returned to the same job after I graduated in 2008 and was immediately reminded of the Police's lackluster interest in protecting and serving.  For a time, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Assuming that they would do their job, if a little disgruntled about it.  A lady called me and told me that a business had stolen her ski-boat.  This lady took the boat to a repair shop to have the motor fixed.  The company fixed the motor and then put the boat up for sale.  I was shocked.  I had never heard of such a thing.  I told her to go to the police and file a report.  She said ok.  I received a call from her about two hours later.  She said that the police refused to take the report, claiming that it was a civil matter.

Earlier this year, a woman called a check-cashing establishment to ask their hours.  She was unaware that her call had been routed to the St. Louis headquarters location of the business.  They said they would be open at 8:00 AM.  The lady showed up at the check-cashing business at just past 8:00 and found the doors locked.  Thinking that she had just spoken with someone that was inside, she knocked on the door and tried the handle again.  She cupped her hands over her eyes and looked in through the glass.  When she leaned back from the door, she found that a man behind her was pointing a gun at her.  He said, "Get the fuck back."  She raised her hands and backed up, thinking she was being robbed.  The man unlocked the door, walked into the check-cashing business and locked the door behind him, pointing the gun at her the whole time.  The woman was severely rattled and drove straight to the police.  The police told her they do not handle problems with businesses.  She called me and explained what had happened.  I verified with my friend who works for the St. Louis Police Department that the police take reports on the flourishing of a firearm.  They do.  I urged her to talk to the police again and at least file a report, whether they wanted her to or not.  She called me back later and informed that the police were adamant in their decision not to do anything.

An elderly man took his antique music box to a clock repair shop.  The clock was an anniversary present that his deceased wife gave him 60 years before. The clock repair shop stole the music box and tried to sell it. The store repeatedly told the elderly man that the clock was irreparable and they threw it out.  The elderly man kept his receipts and went to the police.  They said that they do not handle business matters.  I personally intervened to try to get the music box back.  Miraculously, the music box was found and returned.  The police never took a report.

I have investigated criminals, compiled reports and offered them to the Kansas City Police Fraud Department.  They have never called me back.  Some of the people I offered up are still ripping people off.

The above examples only laid the 'seeds' of doubt.  I regularly hear similar stories.  These types of stories are disheartening, but there's a part of me that held back from full-force condemnation. I know that there are bigger issues than theft.  Theft is usually isolated and though deplorable, isn't threatening public safety.  I learned not to trust police, learned that calling them for fraud or theft is a waste of time.  What really made me hate Kansas City cops resulted from the Waldo Rape case.

The Kansas City police identified a man named Bernard Jackson as a "person of interest" in the recent rapes that have sent fear into the women in the Waldo area of Kansas city.  Jackson is a registered sex offender who was released from prison after serving more than 20 years for a rape in the 1980s.  He was released in 2008, prior to five rapes in the Waldo (from Sept 2009-Feb 2010).  He matched the psych profile of the rapist and was justly investigated.  During the investigation and through DNA evidence, he was linked to four Waldo rapes in the 1980s.  He was followed for a week before the police lost him.

Jackson was dating a woman and helping to support her and her children at the time of this investigation.  After they lost him, and a warrant for his arrest was secured, they also searched his girlfriend's house in hopes of finding him or other evidence.  They detained the woman around noon on May 5, 2010 at her place of work and took her to the police station where they proceeded to interrogate her.  She was aware that Jackson had a past that involved incarceration, but she didn't know the details.  She explained to the police over and over.  She believed what the police told her and didn't attempt to defend him.  It didn't matter.  The police interrogated her about his whereabouts and even threatened to take her children away from her.  She cooperated as best she could, but she truly didn't know his whereabouts.  About four hours into her interrogation, the police apprehended Jackson after a short foot chase.

By this time, Jackson's girlfriend's children arrived home to find squad cars surrounding it.  One of the children had her backpack searched and was then let go.  The police did not tell the children what was going on, did not take them to a police station, and did not tell them that their mother was being detained, or even that she was alive and safe.  The kids arrived home, one by one, and were ignored. They took shelter at a neighbor's house and frantically tried to contact their mother, who had her cell phone confiscated.  They would learn nothing of their mother's whereabouts until she was released at 4:00AM the next morning, 16 hours after she had been taken from her job.

All this time, Jackson's girlfriend was pleading with the police to contact her children and make arrangements for their well-being.  Her requests were ignored and so were her children.  They managed to get a hold of their eldest sister who could take them in until they found out what was going on.  Jackson's girlfriend arrived home to find many of her things destroyed, including her stove.  She will have to pay for damages out of pocket.  Her children are now confused as to why the bad guy was nice to them and the good guys were not only mean, but destroyed their home and threatened their mother, who is already emotionally devastated.

The police released a composite sketch of the suspect earlier this year.  The sketch, based on the victim descriptions of the rapist was of a clean shaven bald man with mid complexion, weighing about 250 lbs.    The police called a press conference about their capture of Jackson.  The full length press conference has been removed from the internet, or I would have linked it.  At the conference Police Chief Corwin talked about the hard work they put in catching Jackson.  They showed a map of the location of the current Waldo rapes. They displayed the composite sketch of the Waldo rapist adjacent to Bernard Jackson's mugshot.  Chief Corwin announced that the police were charging Jackson with four rapes from the 1980s. He then refused to answer questions about the current investigation.  Jackson committed, and will certainly be found guilty of, all the rapes from the 80s.  He is even linked to several in California.  He will surely spend the rest of his life behind bars.  But what about the current menace to society, the guy who has Waldo residents jumpy and afraid?

It turns out that Jackson weighs about 180lbs, not 250lbs like the suspect.  That discrepancy is very difficult to reconcile.  As far as I know, the victims haven't come forward to identify Jackson and probably weren't even asked to.  Despite DNA evidence from the scenes and with Jackson in custody, the police have not charged him with the current rapes.  The police also forced Jackson to shave his beard before the mugshot, a very odd demand.  Jackson has apparently had the beard for the last several years.  In other words, he's not the right guy for the recent attacks.

That means the police concocted a press conference to make it look like they caught the guy causing havoc in Waldo.  They are leading residents into a false sense of security and leading the press to believe they caught the guy who will be charged any time now.  I've asked myself why more than a few times.  I've wondered if it is a tactic to keep the amount of tips down or to limit racial profiling.  Maybe it's to lull the real Waldo rapist into letting down his guard.  In the end, it doesn't matter; they are deliberately misleading us.  And after careful consideration, I hate them for it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Christianity in Science Class

I wouldn't normally redress a single religion, but other religions have not tenaciously battled to implant their faiths into a discipline that requires the exact opposite of faith.  Scientific conclusions are based on research and evidence.  Experiments are administered and results are published.  If the outcomes of experiment after experiment support a theory, stacking evidence upon evidence in favor of the theory, then and only then is the theory eligible to be taught in science class. 

Allowing faith in science class sets precedent for kids to supplant mysticism and superstition for rational thought and evidence, two vital ingredients in the solid foundation of all scientific disciplines.  Science teachers do not just fill in blanks with whatever religion conveniently gives explanations based on assumptions and a complete absence of research.   What happens when two religions give equally logical explanations of the same event? What makes us choose one over the other?  Faith? What if subscribers to various faiths were in a science classroom and being taught Christian Creation?  That is not "teaching".  It is indoctrination and it transforms the classroom into a mission.

The argument is caused by fundamentalist Christians' assertions that the theory of biological evolution is false because the Bible already has a story for the creation of humans (as we currently are), and the theory of evolution is incompatible with it. Well, evolution happens. It's true and it's been proven again and again. It's the Fundamentalists' responsibility to reconcile their beliefs with the truth, not the other way around.

In America, science and Christianity are estranged.  In 2005, fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans did not believe in Evolution.  These people believe that God created humans in their current form, as written in Genesis, and they want to teach not only their own children this, but ours, yours, his, hers, and everyone else's kids.  Bill O'Reilly gave pretty much the worst reason ever for wanting schools to teach the Christian version of creation. He said that Christianity had answers that science couldn't provide, such as how the world began.  Apparently, it doesn't matter how one arrives at the answers, just as long as the teacher has answers handy.  Following that logic, we could allow teachers to make things up, as long as they have answers to questions.  If science can't provide the answers then why would we bring something that is not science into science class?  If science doesn't have the answers to a question, that is exactly what the science teacher should say.  If the student wants answers that science cannot provide, then the student needs to search elsewhere.  It belongs in a class where unproven speculations are welcomed...whatever class that might be. 

In Europe, there's really no debate about evolution.  Nearly everyone accepts the truth of evolution, including Christians.  In one of the most poetic statements committed to words, Cardinal Ratzinger says the following in his commentary on Genesis:
"We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the 'project' of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary -- rather than mutually exclusive -- realities."

Because Genesis is a Jewish text, I also consulted Jewish opinion on the matter.  According to the Rabbinical Council of America, "Evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator or with the first 2 chapters of Genesis."  So, really, why is there even a debate?  Science teachers are teaching the SCIENCE behind whatever the "Divine Creator" may have created. They are not telling children not to believe in God.  That doesn't belong in science class either.

Some Christians issue arguments from more solid ground and only claim that we should teach Intelligent Design in science classes.   I don't really have anything against Intelligent Design.  It can be defended just as easily as non-design, in my opinion.  I can very effectively refute any argument that claims "Intelligent Design is false".  God/Divine Creator has the most powerful trump cards imaginable: he is omniscient and omnipotent.  With those two attributes, literally nothing is impossible, so defending him as the creator of the universe is not challenging.  But, virtually all supporting evidence for Intelligent Design has been thoroughly researched and the results invariably suggests logical explanations concurrent with scientific theories. This, by no means, invalidates the concept of Intelligent Design, it just makes the reasons for teaching it superfluous.  A grand designer may have set evolution into motion, but in order to debate the existence of a designer, no matter what stance is argued, we would have to speculate with no way of verifying our speculations.  If a student asks if Intelligent Design is true, the correct answer is "maybe" or "I don't know." There's nothing else to say about it.