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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Future's Past: Technology and the class war by other means

"Strange business, this crusading spirit of the managers and engineers, the idea of designing and manufacturing and distributing being sort of a holy war; all that folklore was cooked up by public relations and advertising men hired by managers and engineers to make big business popular in the old days, which it certainly wasn't in the beginning. Now, the engineers and managers believe with all their hearts the glorious things their forbears hired people to say about them. Yesterday's snow job becomes today's sermon."

-Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano


You know, there's no doubt that the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb project were smart folks. Some of them even had regrets of various kinds after their work was done, seeing the effects the bomb had, not just on a couple of Japanese cities and their helpless residents, but on the world as a whole. Of course, others remained unapologetic to the end.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a hilariously-titled story this week about Frank Moss, a former technology entrepreneur and current head of the MIT's prestigious Media Lab.
Cofounded by Nicholas Negroponte and former MIT president Jerome Weisner in 1985, the Media Lab earned its reputation envisioning today's "digital lifestyle," developing ideas from wearable computers to digital ink to a $100 laptop computer for use by children in developing countries.

The lab is also, Moss boasts, "clearly the coolest place on the planet" to work, for those interested in how technology can change society.
But don't get the false impression that the lab's raison d'etre is charity. On its website, the Media Lab boasts that
[t]he Laboratory pioneered collaboration between academia and industry, and provides a unique environment to explore basic research and applications, without regard to traditional divisions among disciplines.
From the "Sponsorship" section of the website, the Media Lab fleshes out its point further, pointing out just what corporations that pony up the cash can expect to get in exchange for their sponsorship.
Many sponsors find the Laboratory to be a uniquely valuable resource for conducting research that is too costly or too "far out" to be accommodated within a corporate environment. The "multiplier" effect of joining a community of sponsors to support advanced research has impressive results. For less than the cost of one senior scientist's salary plus benefits, a sponsor can gain access to the work of a 300-person research laboratory.
The CSM expands on the purpose of the lab further in their article.
Most of the lab's $32 million yearly budget comes from corporate sponsors ranging from the expected - tech giants such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Intel, and Cisco Systems - to the less obvious, such as Campbell Soup, Philip Morris, and The LEGO Group, maker of LEGO toys.

One of Moss's top priorities is to make sure these 80 or so corporate sponsors feel they benefit from the work of the lab. In the go-go days of the late 1990s tech boom, companies could simply decide, "This is cool. We're going to put money behind it," Moss says. But today, "You have to be able to justify that [spending] as a good investment that has a return."
Moss sees his "new" way of doing things as reaching beyond MIT, and hopefully setting the standard for a new era of cooperation between scientists, government and business.

One of the interesting things about Moss's vision is how convinced he is that his model amounts to something different in the world of high tech research. But, the truth is, we've seen this kind of thing before. Capitalism has always relied on government subsidy to fund both its products and the weapons it uses to attack the working class.

For those who want to understand the world, as the capitalists now stand ready again to remake it, it's instructive to look at the discussions and conditions that surrounded the implementation of an older technologies. If we look at the design and application of automation in the US, we can get a pretty sizeable hint at what the research conducted by folks like Moss is likely to accomplish in the future. And, from that hint, we can maybe design our own strategy to stop it.


Automation functioned as a flexible class war weapon, undermining workers in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of capital. Martin Glaberman writes that the end of the war saw a major transformation of the auto industry.
The centralization of power with the elimination of the smaller auto companies (Kaiser, Hudson, Packard, etc.) was combined with the decentralization of production in the newly automated or modernized plants. Reuther continued the policies begun by old Henry Ford and followed by CM's C. F. Wilson. The five-dollar day was superseded by the cost-of-living allowance as the golden chain that was to bind the workers to the most intense and alienating exploitation to be found anywhere in the industrialized world. No wage increase can compensate for the fact that the operations required of one worker on an auto assembly line never total as much as one minute.

In 1955 auto workers erupted in a wave of wildcat strikes that rejected the policy of fringe benefits combined with increasing speed-up. They made it clear that what was at issue was the inability of the union contract to provide any solution to the day-to-day problems on the plant floor. In some plants, at the expiration of the three-year contract, there are literally thousands of unresolved grievances testifying to the need of workers to manage production in their own name.
Coming out of World War II, the capitalists were in need of new additions to their arsenal, and workers control was a constant threat to profits and capitalist dictatorship on the job floor. While labor had ostensibly taken a "no-strike" pledge during the war, strikes had not abated as much as the capitalists would have liked. Workers went out as much in 1944 as they did in 1937 (the year of the famous Flint Sit-Down Strike), but government-imposed wage controls and forced arbitration limited gains.
In an effort to keep wages in line, the NWLB came up with a policy known as the Little Steel Formula. First applied to the steel industry then to a wide range of occupations, the formula allowed wage increases only at levels that would not increase inflation. Unionists argued that Little Steel fundamentally crippled collective bargaining and that wage increases were constantly behind inflation, keeping workers poor while corporations raked in incredible profits.
With the end of the war and the end of the "no-strike" pledge, workers exploded in mass action. In 1945 and 1946, workers struck GM. Capitalists feared a return to the pre-war militancy of labor and the re-emergence of the demands for workers control from the shop floor. Further, capitalists feared a return of the Depression if business returned to capitalism as usual.

And, towards these ends, capitalists viewed machinists with particular distrust. Because of the high level of skill demanded by the machines they utilized and the operations they had to perform, combined with their direct relationship to the point of production and the less alienated nature of their job, machinists represented a very real threat to the capitalist dream of unhindered control over labor and production.


Pushed to meet increased production for the war, and with capitalism in shambles, the government had poured money into new technologies. Airplane production soared, thanks to automation.
Drawing on a plan proposed during World War I, the NDC decided to utilize automated production capabilities of automobile factories to produce aircraft parts, thereby permitting the aircraft companies to assemble even greater numbers of aircraft. Consolidated and possibly Douglas Aircraft would be teamed with Ford for the B-24, North American Aviation with General Motors for the B-25 and Martin with Chrysler for the B-26.
American capitalism wasn't capable of taking on these costs itself. It needed subsidies, and the war and demands of the government provided the perfect symbiosis necessary to achieve both the government's plan to challenge Nazi imperialism and the capitalist's desire to tame its workforce.

The Chairman of North American Aviation at the time, J. H. Kindelberger, put it this way:
We must maintain a progressive attitude toward production methods improvements and continue to develop machinery and equipment adaptable to volume production. We should cooperate with each other in major industry-wide collaboration and with government in projects which offer wide applications and yet are too costly for financing by the companies.
In his book, Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation, David F. Noble writes that the war saw a tremendous transformation of the relationship between business and government. Reflecting the generally accepted notion that free market capitalism had collapsed with the Great Depression, businesses looked to new models for development and the preservation of their dominance over workers. Government funding for research at Bell Labs, for instance, went from 1 percent of the budget in 1939 to 83 percent in 1943.

And the military and industry marriage of convenience elevated the status of scientists, as well. Again, Noble notes,
If preparation for war and the war itself lifted the nation out of the Depression, it also provided scientists and engineers with growing employment, a chance once again to demonstrate their prowess, and an opportunity to restore public confidence in scientific and technological progress. Engaging in continuous self-promotion and advertising their accomplishments in such areas as radar, rocketry, and atomic weaponry, the scientists emerged from the war with a larger-than-life image (and self-image) as genuine national heroes. Determined to preserve their heroic status, to lay to rest the doubts and disclosures of the Depression decade, and, above all, to rekindle the traditional American spirit of technological optimism, they early became the advance corps of a self-serving postwar cultural offensive. This progressivist cultural offensive succeeded and, as a consequence, the scientific community secured unprecedented peacetime military and civilian government support for its research and development activities.
Despite the grand mythology of scientific apoliticism and egalitarian progress, the War and the resulting order served to pull scientists into the political apparatus, primarily through the military budget. No longer mere inventors, the new economy transformed scientists into social engineers.


In his 1962 essay, "Man, work & the automated feast", Ben B. Seligman wrote,
Automation is already moving with a rapidity that threatens to tear apart existing social and organizational structures; according to some observers, it will even alter the habits of thought that men have up to now prided themselves on … Now, new industrial functions, new economic forms, new work habits, and new social headaches are being created in ways that signify a kind of dialectical leap.
Without a doubt, automation did remake the American working class. Echoing elite sentiment, labor leaders generally embraced automation, if grudgingly at times, and ignored the complaints from their rank and file. Meanwhile, the capitalists' enthusiasm for it grew steadily following World War II, finally reaching near religious levels in the 50's and 60's.

The elite hope was that, by undermining the power of the machinists, control of production could be transferred from the shop floor, where it risked expropriation and sabotage by workers, to the offices of management and technicians. In a real sense, the replacement of workers with automation was a substitution of capital for labor, subsidized by government. Capitalist control was to be re-imposed on an unruly workforce.

"The unions now attempt to make management's decisions on prices, on profits, on production schedules, on depreciation reserves and on many other phases of industrial operation," lamented Ernest T. Weir, National Steel Corporation chairman.

But the exhilaration of the elite for automation, so obvious by the 60's and 70's, had earlier origins. Writing in Fortune Magazine in 1946, Eric W. Leaver and John J. Brown, laid out the future as they saw it in their influential article, "Machines Without Men":
The human machine tender is at best a makeshift. We are beginning to develop fabrication, control, safety, and observing devices immensely superior to the human mechanism. This development is only in its infancy, yet already we have machines that see better than eyes, calculate more reliable than brains, communicate faster and farther than the voice, record more accurately than memory, and act faster and better than hands. These devices are not subject to any human limitations. They do not mind working around the clock. They never feel hunger or fatigue. They are always satisfied with working conditions and never demand higher wages based on the company's ability to pay. They not only cause less trouble than humans doing comparable work, but they can be built to ring an alarm bell in the central control room whenever they are not working properly.
The advantages automation promised to capitalists were obvious, and because of this fact, any complaint from workers or their organizations about the effects of automation was received quite harshly by the powers that be. "Whenever an exasperated labor leader asserts that automation can be a curse, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce responds that he is a Luddite," said Seligman.


Because the American capitalist conspiracy for domination centers on white supremacy and the division of the working class, the drive to automate necessarily also played out in ways disproportionately bad for workers of color, and Black factory workers in particular. Just as today's lay-offs in Detroit disproportionately affect African-Americans, in many factories with a high percentage of Black employees, automation often had lethal consequences, and could be applied selectively to force speed ups and to increase their rate of exploitation.

In their fantastic piece, "Niggermation In Auto: Company Policy and the Rise of Black Caucuses," Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin discuss the way that automation was brought to bear on Black workers. Automation was used, often selectively, to force dangerous speed ups in order to increase production.
Management credited this much higher productivity per worker to its improved managerial techniques and new machinery. Workers, on the other hand, claimed the higher productivity was primarily a result of their being forced to work harder and faster under increasingly unsafe and unhealthy conditions. The companies called their methods automation; black workers in Detroit called them 'niggermation.'
These speed ups imposed dangerous conditions on Black workers, as Georgakas and Surkin noted.
Eldon conditions were typical of conditions in the industry. Even when there were technological changes, usually only one segment of the assembly line was automated, so that the workers on other segments had to labor more strenuously to keep up. Often, the automation eliminated interesting jobs, leaving the more menial and monotonous tasks for people.
Writing in 1963, civil rights organizer Baynard Rustin, put it this way:
The civil rights movement alone cannot provide jobs for all. It cannot
solve the problems raised by automation—and automation deprives more Negroes
of jobs than any other single factor, including prejudice.
Martin Luther King came to similar conclusions about the effect of automation on Black workers struggling for respect and control over their lives. In a speech before the AFL-CIO in 1961, he remarked,
Labor today faces a grave crisis, perhaps the most calamitous since it began its march from the shadows of want and insecurity. In the next ten to twenty years automation will grind jobs into dust as it grinds out unbelievable volumes of production. This period is made to order for those who would seek to drive labor into impotency by viciously attacking it at every point of weakness.
Again King hit hard on the issue in 1968, foreseeing the dismantalling of the factory system and the rise of the service economy.
In the days to come, organized labor will increase its importance in the destinies of Negroes. Automation is imperceptibly but inexorably producing dislocations, skimming off unskilled labor from the industrial force. The displaced are flowing into proliferating service occupations. These enterprises are traditionally unorganized and provide low wage scales with longer hours. The Negroes pressed into these services need union protection, and the union movement needs their membership to maintain its relative strength in the whole society.
King, by that time, had recognized what some others, like Malcolm X had been saying for some time. Interviewed in 1964, Malcolm X said,
The Muslims, as the Nation of Islam is called, stress the futility of the integrationist program. They argue that there is no precedent for the absorption of Negroes into the greater white American mainstream in fact or in history, that integrationists are asking for something the American socioeconomic system is inherently unable to give them -- mass class mobility, so that at best Negroes can expect from the integrationist program a hopeless entry into the lowest levels of a working class already disenfranchised by automation.
It was becoming clear that what progress Blacks had made during and immediately after World War II was under attack by capitalism through automation. Without access to good jobs, the whole notion of Black economic uplift and integration came under attack. While automation attacked white workers wages and power on the job, it served to undermine the foundations of the integrationist mainstream of the civil rights movement. Framed correctly, a battle against automation carried within it at that time the potentiality of subverting white supremacy, and with it the underpinnings of American capitalism.


So, returning to MIT's Media Lab, it turns out that Director Moss's new idea isn't so new after all.

To take a contemporary example, consider just the affect that Department of Defense RFID purchasing has had on the spread of that technology. Several years ago, DoD demanded that its suppliers begin integrating RFID into its pallets by 2005, a move that Computerworld said in 2003 "likely will have an even bigger impact than a similar move by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in June."

In early March of 2006, Mark Roberti reported for the RFID Journal, an industry paper, on the government/private collaboration behind RFID's success.
Alien [a major RFID firm] and the state of Ohio deserve kudos for investing in the state-of-the-art facility, but what’s most encouraging to me is that the lab is a rare example of a private company, government and academia working together to take RFID forward.
The RFID Solutions Center has enlisted the cooperation of five area universities, which will use the center for teaching, research and development. This kind of cooperation between industry, government and academia is going to be crucial if we are to solve the many implementation problems that still exist and develop solutions that transform the way companies manufacture, distribute and sell product.
Continuing, Roberti is careful to selectively remove the DoD funding from his analysis of RFID research dollars and, most importantly, purchasing, which is sort of like removing Army purchasing from the ammunition market. Perhaps this obfuscation is meant to bolster his case for government and corporate intervention in the market.
Where is that money going to come from? Some of it will come from governments. The European Union has put up nearly $10 million to fund the Promise project, which is looking at ways to use RFID for product lifecycle management. Asian countries have put up tens of millions of dollars to promote research in RFID. The United States federal government, despite the military’s push to adopt the technology, has done very little. States like Ohio and North Dakota are doing what they can.

The vast majority of funding will have to come from companies, and we’ve seen some visionary firms taking the lead. Airplane makers Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, as well as defense company BAE Systems, are supporting the Aero-ID Programme run by the Auto-ID Labs at Cambridge. Wal-Mart and others, meanwhile, are supporting the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas. But this is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

I understand that companies are not going to fund research out of a love for academics. The academics understand that, too. Research has to be applied toward solving the deployment issues end users face, or toward finding new ways to improve the way companies do business.
Of course, in a way typical of capitalist apologists, just why subsidy of business-friendly technologies is important is hardly addressed at all. It's generally just assumed that it is.

But, Roberti would do well to look more closely at RFID pioneers, Alien Technologies, for a reality check. In 2003, Alien Technologies broke ground on a RFID manufacturing plant at North Dakota State University’s Research and Technology Park, which they hope will help them raise their chip production capacity to 10 billion tags a year. Explaining the choice of location, Alien's CEO, Stav Prodromou, cited two main factors: the company's past cooperation with NDSU and the state's "very business friendly attitude."

When asked in January 2006 about when the "tipping point" for RFID will be, Prodromou responded,
It is Alien's perspective that the tipping point will happen when people break through the ROI barrier. Many large-scale applications were not economical at prices we saw in 2005. It's not across the board, but there is a payback for many applications, such as ensuring the on-shelf availability of apparel, brand protection and so on. As time goes on and tag prices fall, more and more products will fall into the category where there is a payback.
All manner of companies are gearing up now to implement RFID, but Prodromou makes sure to point out that "[t]he DFARS [Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement] became effective in mid-November, and we now have a number of projects underway."

In fact, in 2005 the government was already spending hundreds of millions a year on RFID, with growth then projected at 120 percent by 2009. Just this year, one DoD contract alone with Savi Technology was increased from $207.9 million to $424.5 million. Not insubstantial for a market that went from $1.3 billion in 2003 to $2.7 billion in 2006.

But, while it still might be true that military RFID expenditures have been eclipsed, however temporarily, by the private sector, the subsidy has served its purpose. Writing for the Electronic Business Online in January 2006, Geoffrey James, focused on the importance of a military/corporate research symbiosis in his aptly titled article, "The war at home".
It turns out that the military's use of RFID is second only to Wal-Mart's in generating demand for RFID chips, according to Parker, thereby helping create a mass market that will get tag prices down to the point where they'll become economical for widespread commercial adoption. Thus, by bootstrapping the RFID market sooner than it otherwise might have reached fruition, NCW will have a direct and positive impact on the revenues of the big RFID vendors: Philips, EM Electronics and Texas Instruments.
As they become more cost-conscious, defense electronics contractors are also drawing more heavily on existing commercial products to build the computing and communications infrastructure that will make NCW-enabled devices work together, according to former Marine colonel Terry Morgan, now director of Netcentric Strategies at Cisco Systems. "There's a core of technology in the commercial world that's now being sold into the defense world," he says. "The trick to keeping defense electronics economical is leveraging the mass market."
Ultimately, the need to achieve NCW quickly and cost-effectively must result in a symbiotic relationship between the defense industry and mainstream electronics firms, according to Morgan. "Research and development should be flowing in both directions," he explains. "The economics of the commercial sector should be helping keep the price of defense electronics down, even as the defense industry creates an incremental market for commercial products."

Such a symbiosis would provide substantial benefits to both sectors. Defense electronics firms would be freed to spend their resources on performing the defense-specific R&D required to make NCW practical, and commercial electronics firms could use their expertise to bring cost efficiencies to the manufacturing process. The symbiosis would also allow our armed forces to upgrade more quickly to NCW, which will not only help them succeed in their missions but also make troops less likely to be injured or killed in the process. And in the end, that's far more important than the health and welfare of the defense industry, the electronics industry or the political powers that be.
And, indeed, now that the market has been made safe for RFID, other companies, governments and their militaries/police are beginning to jump onboard. The Portland Business Journal highlighted one such instance last year. According to an October 2005 article,
Founded in 2001, EID Passport is a privately held company employing 30 people. Its main products, RapidGate and Secure Workplace Solution, use RFID technology to track people entering and leaving stores, warehouses and military facilities. Both systems use ID registration, badges, databases and handheld scanners to identify and track people at specific locations.

"We use RFID as it pertains to tracking and accountability," said Larson. "We attach the RFID plate to the actual picture card so it all becomes one."
And that really gets to the crux of the unstated benefit such technological research bestows on both capitalists and bureaucrats: control. As, Geoffrey James said, RFID will serve "to bring cost efficiencies to the manufacturing process." Translated, that means an attack on workers, who, because of a contradiction of capitalism, must make up the production, supply, distribution and even consumer chain of supply and receiving at the same time that their control and access to that very chain threatens capitalist profits and domination. The danger, from the capitalist's perspective, is always that workers will decide to use those relationships to production for their own benefit, rather than those of the absentee capitalist.


And, so it should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the increasing police state that is the modern workplace in this country, that a new poll has found that employers are increasingly utilizing all manner of surveillance technologies to monitor, coerce and control workers. For the capitalists, RFID will make a welcome addition to this arsenal.

According to a Newsday article this week, "‘Big Brother’ firms keep eye on workers", there are reasons for that.
Certainly, bosses can cite significant reasons for tracking worker activity: Monitoring can go a long way toward cutting down on sexual harassment, workplace accidents and goofing off. Plus, in lawsuits, courts expect employers to be able to hand over electronic evidence.

So such surveillance is on the increase: The use of video monitoring for theft, violence and sabotage rose last year to 51 percent of 526 employers surveyed by the American Management Association and ePolicy Institute; only 33 percent were using such monitoring four years earlier.
The situation, despite the rapid rate of change, has elicited little commentary from the capitalist press. For anti-capitalists, it should be obvious, though: work is a dictatorship and a dictatorship needs surveillance. Capitalism's disenfranchizement of those who labor from the product of that labor necessitates constant surveillance and intervention. The Newsday article again sums it up nicely:
An employee enters an unauthorized area of the company, his smart-chip badge triggering a hidden surveillance camera. That sends an alert to a security officer, who uses his laptop or cell phone to monitor what the intruder is up to.

Once the realm of Tom Cruise movies, scenes such as this one are playing out at a worksite near you.

What’s more, employer surveillance of workers and property extends beyond the video screen: The boss can tell what Web sites you’ve visited on office computers, the content of e-mail you haven’t even sent, even your every move through cell phones equipped with global positioning. And coming soon: Employee identification through biometrics – measuring such biological components as fingerprints and voice pattern – as well as grain-of-wheat-sized chips implanted under the skin, turning you, in effect, into an EZPass.
The capitalist class, and the state that supports it, is busy honing its policing powers in the workplace in a way that is not without precedent, but which goes far beyond the wildest fantasies of the industrialists of old.

Quoted a few years ago, Per-Olof Loof, Sensormatic's president and CEO, looked into the future of theft deterrance at work.
"While traditional methods of security will always be used by retailers, improvements such as source tagging, RFID systems and technologically advanced surveillance systems are the real weapons in a retailer's war against revenue loss."
According to a 2000 survey of retailers, capitalists estimate they lost more than $13 billion to employee redistribution that year, more than shoplifters took. So, it's natural that capitalists would want to regulate workers as closely as possible on the job. Further, bosses, just like other dictators, have an interest in regulating the movements and interactions and overall freedom of their subjects in order to prevent being challenged.

But, in case RFID itself doesn't solve the problem, an analyst quoted in IT Week's January feature, "How retailers can keep the customer satisfied," was quick to point out that
[t]he number one issue for the shopper is out-of-stock merchandise – an inconvenience that causes 47 per cent of customers to shop elsewhere as a result. New RFID implementations must be linked to workforce management technologies to ensure that replenishment tasks are allocated and completed.
The old authority of capital will not disappear in the future, despite all the elite's wistful talk of information economies and masturbatorily-named "knowlege workers". The old system will merely be augmented by a whole new and sophisiticated police state at work, intended to keep the worker in place, on task and with as little power as possible. And so the profits will flow.

RFID won't be alone in the capitalist's arsenal. The poll cited in the Newsday story further revealed that 76 percent of employers admitted to monitoring internet activity; 51 percent revealed using video surveillance to deter theft (16% to monitor performance); and, 8 percent said they use GPS to track workers.


Anarchists - even those who see much potential in technological change - must recognize the centrality of technology to the class war as it is being framed in the 21st century in the First World. Technological development is political, just like the police forces, armies and parties of the ruling class. And, even if technology might somehow hold promise if we can somehow find out how to decentralize and democratize it, that in no way excuses us from casting a very critical eye towards the existing technology and the elite's future plans. We cannot ignore the political context from which it emerged. Whatever we think of it's potential after the revolution, technology as we now know it is certainly not neutral.

Late in the night of October 1, 1975, a small group of Washington Post press workers slid quietly into the pressroom. Once inside, they caught a foreman off guard. Threatening him with violence if he betrayed their action, they proceeded to dismantle the new computerized press the Post's managers had installed, the side-effect of which - intentional or not - had been to deskill the saboteurs and to concentrate more power in the hands of the bosses by shifting control over production into management's hands. Sytematically, they destroyed all 72 units of the Post's nine machines, cutting wires, jamming gears, locking cylinders and breaking off keys in the starting mechanisms.

Another worker, a deskilled machinist for GE, regretted the passivity of his fellow workers in the face of the technology that would eventually disempower them. "When they closed the division, we should have acted earlier and destroyed it ourselves."

A history worth learning from.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Police Station Intimidation

In a two part series called "Police Station Intimidation", Florida CBS channel 4 reporter, Mike Kirsch, teamed up with the Police Complaint Center to test South Florida departments on the availability of police complaint forms. In the undercover sting, PCC and the newschannel sent a citizen into a cop shop to request a form to file a complaint. The reaction was something to watch.
CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form.

The I-Team conducted an extensive hidden camera test, carried out by a police abuse watchdog group called the Police Complaint Center. Remarkably, of 38 different police stations tested around South Florida, all but three had no police complaint forms.
As ridiculous as it might seem, things almost turned violent on at least one occasion:
In the I-team’s undercover investigation, there was one incident in which our tester went in to file a complaint. After several times asking for a form, being told "you're not leaving without a form," he was asked to leave and actually walked off the property, to the point where the officer reached for his gun, put his hand on his gun and said, "Take a step closer, and see what happens."
Here is the transcript from that exchange:
tester: Yeah, I wanted to find out how to file a complaint against an officer. I just want to find out how you do it. Do you guys have a form or something that I could take with me.
officer: Well, you got to tell me first, and then I got to hear what's going on. You've got to tell me what the complaint is.
tester: Do you have a complaint form that I can, like, fill out or something like that?
officer: Might not be a legitimate complaint.
tester: Who decides that?
officer: I'm trying to help you.
tester: Like, if there's a form, why can't I just take it and leave, right?
officer: No, you don't leave with forms. You tell me what happened, and then I help you from there. Do you have I-D on?
tester: Why?
officer: You know what? You need to leave.
tester: Why?
officer: I'm going to tell you one more time, because I can't do this anymore with you, okay. You're refusing to tell me what you want to do, okay. You're refusing to tell me who's involved, where it happened, what transpired. You'e not cooperating with me one bit.
tester: I was just asking if you guys have a complaint form, like if there's some way for me --
officer: Out of my way.
tester: To contact Internal Affairs.
officer: You can do whatever the hell you want. It's a free country.
tester: You're cursing at me.
officer: Where do you live? Where do you live? You have to tell me where you live, what your name is, or anything like that.
tester: For a complaint? I mean, like, if I have --
officer: Are you on medications?
tester: Why would you ask me something like that?
officer: Because you're not answering any of my questions.
tester: Am I on medications?
officer: I asked you. It's a free country. I can ask you that.
tester: Okay, you're right.
officer: So you're not going to tell me who you are, you're not going to tell me what the problem is.You're not going to identify yourself.
tester: All I asked you was, like, how do I contact --
officer: You said you have a complaint. You say my officers are acting in an inappropriate manner.
officer: So leave now. Leave now. Leave now.
tester: I'm not doing anything wrong.
officer: Neither am I. It's a free country.
officer: I'm not in your face. I'm standing on the sidewalk. It's a free country. One more step forward, and you'll see what happens. Take one more step forward.
If you watch the video, the video pauses so that you can see the officer put his hand on his weapon.

Interestingly, in a strange reversal of his usual role as fascist extraordinaire, Miami Police Chief John Timoney actually played the role of the liberal in the piece, thanks primarily to the extremism of the other chiefs.
In the end, Timoney says cops intimidating citizens alone is bad enough. What's worse is cops denying citizens the very forms on which they need to complain about such behavior. Citizen complaint forms that create a paper trail, so that complaints can't possibly be ignored.

And even worse than that, says Timoney, is when a police department itself doesn't have a complaint form policy to begin with. And that, he says, when you consider the many other departments in the country that do, is not right and not good for the image of South Florida law enforcement.

“Anytime you don't get police departments or other institutions to do what's right”, said Timoney, ”if the agency is not doing it properly, fire the chief. If I'm not doing it properly, fire me.”
That's a different tune than the Irish supercop usually sings. An Irish immigrant, Timoney once joked with a Village Voice reporter, saying, "I came here to teach you people a lesson."

Many folks will remember Timoney from his brutal defense of capital during the FTAA protests in Miami a few years back, in which he oversaw the wholesale utilization of violence against protesters and the transformation of that police department into a paramilitary force so that the elite global leadership could safely hash out their latest scheme to force their bloodsucking economic model on the Western Hemisphere.

Some will also remember Timoney as the New York Police Commissioner who oversaw the massive consolidation of the NYPD through the incorporation of the previously separate Housing and Transit Departments in the mid 1990's. Still others will recall him as the Philadelphia Chief of Police who led sweeping mass arrests of demonstrators at the 2000 Republican National Convention, almost all of which resulted in dropped charges.

Timony was interviewed in 2004 on Fox News in which he discussed the RNC protests planned for that year and his experience with such protests in Miami and Philadelphia. Although this was on Fox News, let's at least hope that the interviewer here was merely playing devil's advocate with his question:
JOHN GIBSON: So, if you know who they are and you know they're coming, you can't just scoop them up for a few days?

TIMONEY: No. That would be un-American. However, you know, we do know who they are. They go from city to city. There's a hardcore group.

As a matter of fact, after the 2000 convention clearly we arrested about 400, some of which had been arrested in other cities, and at that time I wrote to the Justice Department, Janet Reno, recommending that they open an investigation at the federal level for people -- these are not spontaneous demonstrators, by the way, this is not the '60s where civil rights demonstrations break out, or anti-war protesters -- these are individuals that actually plan and train and arm themselves coming into the city with the sole purpose of engaging and property damage, assault on police officers, it has nothing to do with protests and free speech. It's all about anarchy, vandalism, assault on police officers.
Clearly, Timoney is not a wishy-washy liberal.

In an interview in the Washington Post last year, Timoney discussed shoot-to-kill policies following the killing by London police of an unarmed man in the subway two weeks after the July 11th bombings.
"I can guarantee you that if we have, God forbid, a suicide bomber in a big city in the United States, 'shoot to kill' will be the inevitable policy," said Miami Police Chief John F. Timoney in an interview. "It's not a policy we choose lightly, but it's the only policy."


"You need to get him dead as quick as possible," said Timoney, the Miami police chief. "The easiest way to do that is a head shot. That's the only way to guarantee. It's not something you relish. But if you shot him in the upper torso, that person would be able to make movements and make sure the bomb, if he had it, could go off. A body shot very seldom kills instantly."
Timoney also spent time between police chief gigs as a corporate security specialist and oversaw the World Economic Forum meeting in New York in 2002.

But, despite all that, Timoney's department is one of the few in South Florida that had complaint forms, thus putting him in the odd position of criticizing other agencies. If you watch part II of the "Police Station Intimidation" series, you'll surely get a kick out of watching the other chiefs, unaccustomed to fractures in their bond of blue brotherhood, squirm under his unfriendly comments.

After watching that piece, try tuning in to San Jose CBS 5's coverage of police brutality at their recent Mardi Gras celebration.
[Natasha] Burton, a criminal justice major whose mother is a police officer in Southern California, says she may no longer want an internship at the San Jose Police Department after her encounter with a group of officers, one of whom, she says, used excessive force and profanity.

"Four officers were hitting me with batons," Burton said. "I wasn't being forceful. I didn't hit back, nothing. The thing that hurt me was when he was smashing my face into the concrete."

After asking the officer for his badge number, Burton says the officer "takes his baton and pushes me back, and I put my hands up and another officer says, 'she assaulted an officer; it's a felony.' "
The video does show a white cop following Burton, who is Black, and striking her with a billy club as she runs from him. It also shows a large group of cops apparently tackling her.

Still, upon watching the video, San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis was not entirely convinced.
"If you're bringing video like this forward, and the woman is saying that she feels like she should not have been struck, then we need to take a look at it," Davis said.

Davis says the incident needs to be put into the context of what happened that night: 3,500 revelers took over Downtown San Jose streets at about midnight, jumping on cars, breaking windows and getting into fights.
Nevertheless, at least one witness corroborates Burden's claims.
Alan Santa Cruz witnessed the event from across the street.

"They beat her," Santa Cruz said. "They beat her without even holding her down. She's a woman. They're men. They used force which wasn't supposed to be used. San Jose PD is acting like L.A. PD right now."
The President of San Jose/Silicon Valley Branch of the NAACP, Rick Callender, diplomatically splits the difference:
"I think there were individuals who were out of control," Callender said. "They were attacking police in certain instances, and they deserve to be arrested and go to jail. However, what we saw was also individuals that were just frustrated that couldn't get home, that police showed their frustration at them as well, which was definitely unwarranted."
In 2004 Chief Davis added 700 Tasers to his department's armory. Commenting on the acquisition, he explained the purchase: "This is a simply a tool we can use to get someone to comply." Further, Davis was police chief when one of his officers shot and killed 25 year-old mother, Bich Cau Thi Tran, in her kitchen, resulting in a $1.8 million settlement with the city. The city agreed to the payment in exchange for absolving Davis and the officer involved of legal liability.

Perhaps the most interesting part of "Police Station Intimidation", however, comes at the end of part II. Diop Kamau, founder of the Police Complaint Center, a volunteer and a Channel 4 news crew conduct a racial profiling experiment by using two drivers - one white and one black - to drive the same convertible Mustang on the same road over the course of a week. Guess who gets nailed?

It's nice to see there's still some journalism being practiced out there.

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