Militarization of Police

Chicago Cops Vacation at Pittsburgh G20 Summit, Snap Souvenier Photo

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In my column on the police crackdown at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, I noted that one video circulating around the Internet showed a police unit of about 20 officers decked out in paramilitary garb parading around what appears to be a handcuffed protester. The kid is then propped up in front of the cops, who then pose with him while another cop snaps a photo.

We now know the police unit was from Chicago. They'd taken vacation time to provide freelance security, paid for by the city of Pittsburgh. The protester is Kyle Kramer, who was charged with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct, although he says he has yet to be formally notified of the charges. Like many of those arrested, Kramer appears to have been observing, not rioting. Excerpts from his interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Shortly after being arrested at the intersection of Fifth and Tennyson avenues around 11:20 p.m. on Sept. 25, Mr. Kramer, an English and writing major who hopes to become a journalist one day, was asked by one officer what he was majoring in.

When he told them, he said "They laughed and someone joked, 'We're going to give you plenty to write about tonight.'"…

"Things were happening so fast, and I didn't know how I was going to be treated. The atmosphere was edgy, ominous, a little spooky and pretty interesting."

There was a "weird rapport" between him and his arresting officer, "a big dude. He was kind of up and down, angry and then friendly." When the officer told him to pose for the photo, he said, "I kind of gave him a little bit of an argument, but I told him I would be in the picture. It's kind of hard to say how they would have reacted if I had said no." Indeed, he said, "the only time I was really mad was when I was made to kneel like that. That made me mad. It was kind of a natural response, I guess." At one point, he found himself discussing Chicago jazz clubs with the officer. "I figured if you can have some friendly conversation it's a lot less likely you'll be charged with anything extra," although when he asked for the police officers' names, he said, they laughed.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said he had no intention of looking into the video, explaining he had "more important things" to investigate. He added that the photo could merely have been "the Chicago PD's way of documenting the fact that they effected this arrest."

Chicago Police Chief Jody Weiss appears more concerned. Last week, he announced that his department's internal affairs division would investigate the incident.