The word Orwellian is thrown around so much that I am reluctant to use it. However as I was driving down the road listening to Robert Siegel on NPR interviewing Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing on his program to map Muslim enclaves in the city no other word came to mind. My mouth literally fell open while listening.
Chief Downing indicates that he is not targeting any specific race or religion, yet he specifically and continually references Muslim communities. He indicates he is concerned with how these communities express themselves which is his basis for identification. He also feels that certain religious teachings are a matter for the police. Implied in his talk is that his police department is the arbiter of what sorts of teachings or other expressions are hateful or violent.
I personally am nothing short of terrified that a leader in the police department of one of largest cities would give special treatment to groups of people whose thoughts and words, not deeds, are of an extremist nature. I might point out that those who founded our country were considered by the authorities at the time to be violent extremists, although I am sure I would take unending criticism for comparing our founders to would-be terrorists.
Deputy Chief Downing goes on to say, “law enforcement’s ultimate goal is to engender continued loyalty”. Still more shocking was his statement that it is a citizen’s duty not prerogative, that is a required activity, to involve the police when they hear someone engaged in “hateful” rhetoric. Perhaps I was naÃ¯ve to think that the function of law enforcement was to protect and serve not to demand by threat of force conformance to the ideology of the state.
If this were some random person espousing these misguided ideas, I would have little concern. I would still lambaste those ideas as the naked authoritarianism that they are, but I would have no fear. However this man is in a position of authority in the LA Police Department. Moreover he is a man with a plan and the power to enact those ideas. I weep for the future.