Tip Of The Iceberg

It warms my heart to see so many bloggers and news organizations covering the Juana Villegas story.  There is widespread outrage, and rightly so.  Aunt B makes the point that this incident was not some anomaly, but, rather, the likely and intended result of the 287(g) program’s implementation.  The agreement between Sheriff Hall’s office and ICE, coupled with the decision to deny driver’s licenses to the undocumented, ushered in the war of attrition against “scary brown people.”

Yes, without meaningful civilian oversight, huge numbers of people will be de-humanized and suffer so we can catch the next Gustavo Reyes.  Never mind the fact that as a multiple drunk driver, he should have been in jail long before he caused that tragic accident.  I have long maintained that the Reyes case was a failure of our local court system, not our immigration system.  I have stated publicly that for every potential Gustavo Reyes the program catches, it will chew through dozens if not hundreds of families whose sole “crime” is commuting to work, church, or school.

I remember interviewing Chief Serpas about the program long before it was implemented, because I knew full well that any discretion would have to be exercised by line officers on the street.  Serpas is said to fond of stats, and he indeed assured me that systems were in place to identify any rogue officers that might, say, unfairly target a particular segment of Nashville’s population.  However, he was steadfast in his assertion that MPD has no choice but to enforce the drivers license laws, and let the chips fall where they may. I bring up the interview with Chief Serpas for another reason, though, which I will explain below.

First, indulge me while I state the obvious.  Cops are people.  As such, they bring their own personal biases and prejudices with them on patrol.  The good ones see themselves as part of the community, and hold themselves to a high standard of professionalism.  There are others, though, that see themselves at war with the community, or at least parts of it.  No doubt, the day to day interaction with people at their worst takes a toll on the most balanced and prepared officers.  The bunker mentality quickly settles in, and soon, many officers find themselves unable to bond with anyone except another officer.

There are merchants who love to exploit that rift between police officers and the general public.  They take out ads in police trade magazines, hawking their gear by making the world seem all the more unsafe for the officer caught without the latest baton, taser, firearm, night vision googles, or handcuffs.  It is, I assume, a booming business.

So, I’m sitting in the lobby of Chief Serpas’s office, and I find myself flipping through one of these trade magazines while I wait.  I was floored by what I saw.  Article after article in which the undocumented are vilified and reduced to dangerous criminals.  Tasteless cartoons depicting these people as part of the Brown Horde, intent on invading YOUR community, officer, so “what will you do about it? ”

With luck, we will soon see many of our soldiers returning from duty in Iraq.  Many of them will turn to law enforcement as a natural career choice.  To be sure, their knowledge of tactics, training,  and weaponry, along with the discipline a stint in the Armed Services instills, will make them attractive candidates for PDs all across the nation.  Unfortunately, some of them will bring a bunker mentality home with them, and on to their civilian jobs.  This is where civilian oversight is key…and sadly, missing from most cities and towns.

I am fearful that an anti-immigrant mindset will spread throughout our police departments and jails.  Truthfully, I fear it already has.  Clearly, the decision to shackle a woman during child delivery was rooted in loathing, or, perhaps worse, indifference to what happens “to one of them.”



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10 responses to “Tip Of The Iceberg

  1. democommie


    Thanks for the post. I was on my way home last evening and saw a local (City of Oswego, NY) cruiser and a border patrol cruiser, lights aflashin, partially blocking the intersection–forcing cars to slow or stop. There were maby 5 or 6 police officers milling about in the street around a car that must have been the focus of their attentions.

    I don’t know what the rationale is that says putting a rather large Customs/Border Patrol operation in Oswego is a good use of resources. Lake Ontario has two ends, Buffalo and Watertown, basically. Oswego is in the middle. It’s at least 40 miles across the lake to Ontaristan and I don’t think there are many islamochannelswimmers. I’ve spoken, briefly, to a number of the Customs/Border Patrol guys and, to a man, they have been assholes. Way too many improperly trained guys with weaponry and shitty attitudes running around up here.

    This weekend sees “Harborfest” in Oswego; four days of music (from the sublime to the ridiculous) too many fried food booths and way too many drunks. The police presence is massive for this event and it’s usually a clusterfuck. Every year they have the same problem bars and the same problem events–apparently history is not a guide for the LE folks.

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  3. So are you thinking they need some sort of civilian review board? That still won’t get rid of the ones at war with the community.

  4. Another great post, Mack. Thank you.

    Jim, we need something. Why not a civilian review board? I don’t have the answers, but that seems like one of the possible solutions.

  5. democommie

    I was watching a ball game in the local microbrewery last night (s’okay, wuzh sacaramental beer) and noticed a commercial with a lot of happy smiley faces and some very seriously dedicated folks in forest green unis on horseback and in motor vehicles and more smiley faced folks. Then the tagline, that the U.S. Border Patrol is making America safe. The fact that they feel it is necessary to run an ad like that, in my neck of the woods says they must be getting some push back.

    I don’t mean to sound strident but the attitude of many in the LE community seems to be, “Do what we say, don’t ask questions and, in fact, just stfu.”

  6. The fact that they feel it is necessary to run an ad like that, in my neck of the woods says they must be getting some push back.

    democommie, the U.S. Border Patrol has been running gazillions of ads. They had a recruiting event in Nashville last weekend.

    Guess they got some money somewhere.

  7. democommie

    Southern Beale:

    Well I’m sure you’re right, but I was in CO, visiting my brother for nearly two weeks and sitting around at night with the “electric campfire” blitherblathering away–never heard or saw anything about the Border Patrol. Mind you, this is in a state that is famously awash in undocumented folks–somebody’s gotta green up all them metro Denver lawns and clean the houses and resorts in places like Aspen, Vail, etc.,. I’m sure that it’s just because the commies in the Socialist Republic of Boulder are keeping their ads from running.

    The U.S. Border Patrol, that would be a great place to send all sorts of returned veterans, especially those with PTSD.

    Talk about your Win/Win. Keeps them away from people that matter and keeps them ready and armed, on the border of Canada and Mexico–just in case we have to launch some pre-emptive cross border raids.

  8. Demo, I love ya like a brother, but sometimes you scare the hell out of me…


  9. democommie


    Nothing to worry about, I want to be proactive,

    I’m just emulating Condi, here. I don’t want the next smoking gun to be a bale of Michoachan or be the one who has to explain to the good citizens of the tundra states why DHS let some Tim Horton’s crazed snowmobilofascist ram his Bombardier into the drive-through window at the Wendy’s on Rte. 104.

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