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Tag: police brutality

Advocates Urge Federal Probe Of Shocking Police Violence In Jefferson Parish

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office is investigating a deputy accused of holding a Black woman by her hair and slamming her head repeatedly into the pavement with such force that a witness to the September 20 incident said it ripped several of Shantel Arnold's braids from her scalp. A 14-second video captured the incident in the New Orleans suburb where, for decades, Black residents have accused the Sheriff's Office of targeting them.

It was the second time that hour that Arnold had been assaulted. By the time the deputies arrived, she said she had already fended off an attack by some local boys.

In an interview, the 34-year-old Arnold, who has not been previously identified, told the news organizations she had needed the police's protection. But protection is not what she got.

The video begins with a sheriff's deputy seen holding the wrist of Arnold, who is lying on her back on the sidewalk. The deputy appears to be dragging her along the pavement. The deputy then grabs Arnold's arm with his other hand and jerks her upward, lifting her body off the ground. They briefly disappear behind a parked white vehicle. When they come back into view, the deputy is holding Arnold by her braids, slamming her repeatedly onto the cement. At one point, he whips her down so violently her body spins around and flips over.

The footage ends as the deputy crouches down and places a knee onto Arnold's back.

In this case, the Sheriff's Office is conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident, something it has not done in some similar cases, according to court records. ProPublica and WWNO/WRKF were able to confirm the probe because Arnold, who did not file an official complaint, and her relatives have transcripts of their interviews with investigators. But Sheriff Joe Lopinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the incident itself or his department's response to it.

For decades, members of the Black community have accused the Sheriff's Office of using excessive force against them, making false arrests and failing to rein in abusive deputies. Last month, a story published by WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica revealed stark racial disparities in shootings by deputies and systemic problems with transparency and accountability.

The investigation found that more than 70 percent of the people deputies shot at during the past eight years were Black, more than double the parish's Black population. In addition, 12 of the 16 people who died after being shot or restrained by deputies during that time were Black men. The investigation also found that the Sheriff's Office could not account for how often its deputies use force or how many complaints civilians lodged against its employees.

Lopinto previously declined to be interviewed about the news organizations' findings, saying only that when his deputies commit serious misconduct, they are arrested; he also noted that at least nine deputies, in a department of about 760 deputies, had been booked since he became sheriff in 2017.

Following the story, the ACLU of Louisiana called on federal prosecutors to launch an investigation into the Sheriff's Office.

Arnold's case raises many of those same issues. The evidence — based on interviews with the victim and the two witnesses, statements they provided to the sheriff's internal affairs division and the video — makes clear that something went very wrong when a citizen of Jefferson Parish needed help.

The incident started around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Arnold was attacked by three boys as she was walking down the street near her family's trailer home. At 4-foot-8 and about 100 pounds, her left eye missing from a car accident years earlier, Arnold regularly made an easy target for the neighborhood bullies, her family said.

During the attack, which lasted several minutes and was captured in a cellphone video, the boys slammed Arnold to the ground and beat her while a crowd watched and laughed. She tried to defend herself with a stick, which is visible in the video. The assault ended only after 71-year-old Lionel Gray, whom Arnold considers her stepfather, chased the boys away.

Disheveled and covered in dirt, Arnold stumbled down the road toward her home when an unidentified sheriff's deputy rolled up beside her in his patrol car.

In the transcript of her interview with an internal affairs investigator, Arnold says: “I'm on my way home. I ain't make it all the way to the block, the police come out of nowhere, swarming, getting me like, 'Come here.' I'm like, 'What's going on? I just got beat up by two children, what ya'll doing?'"

Arnold said the deputy demanded she stop and talk to him. She told him that she had just been assaulted and wanted to go home, and she continued walking.

According to Gray and another witness, Arnold's 55-year-old uncle, Tony Givens, the officer jumped out of his vehicle, grabbed Arnold and threw her to the ground, unprovoked. Gray and Givens were standing at the foot of the family's driveway, about 20 feet away.

In an interview with the internal affairs investigator, Gray said that Arnold didn't pull away. “She didn't have a chance to pull away because, you know, this guy was strong. He grabbed her arm, and some kind of move he made, and she went down to the ground. ... So I was walking up to him and he told me, 'If you come any closer I'm going to kick everybody's ass out here.' So, I said ... 'you don't have to use that type of force on that little woman right there, she's a midget.'"

What happened next was picked up on a video shared on social media and viewed more than 130,000 times. It is unclear who took the video, which is the only footage of the incident to have surfaced; the Sheriff's Office remains one of the few large law enforcement agencies across the country that does not use body cameras. This week, however, the Sheriff's Office announced that it had signed an $8.7 million contract for 500 body cameras that would be deployed by December.

Lopinto said that the contract had been signed in June, “well before any of these articles that were written," and that he didn't say anything publicly because “really nobody has asked me. It's not like I denied it," he said.

WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica sent the Sheriff's Office an email on July 29 specifically asking about the fact that the office had not yet adopted body cameras. The Sheriff's Office did not respond to that email, five follow-up emails and multiple voicemail messages, texts and a certified letter.

Arnold told investigators with the Sheriff's Office that it was not the boys but the deputy who caused her injuries, which included bruises and scratches across her body, a busted lip and recurring headaches. Deputies on the scene called an ambulance, which took Arnold to a local hospital. She was not charged with a crime.

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said the video of Arnold and the deputy was “yet another testament to the shocking frequency that JPSO targets and brutalizes innocent, unarmed members of the Black community."

Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called the deputy's actions in the video “outrageous" and questioned whether the Sheriff's Office properly trains its deputies in control tactics or de-escalation techniques.

“There are essentially two answers here. One is they do, and he ignored his training," Walker said. “Or answer No. 2 is no, they don't, which is to say their training program is completely unacceptable. So, it's either him or the organization."

The video of Arnold and the deputy also raises new questions about the Sheriff's Office use-of-force policy, which activists and critics have assailed as vague and insufficient.

They have also said that the department lacks transparency around use-of-force incidents. According to the news investigation published last month, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office was unable to produce any documents related to non-shooting use-of-force incidents. The research organization Police Scorecard Project made a similar request for data on use-of-force incidents; the Sheriff's Office responded by saying those records don't exist.

Shortly after Arnold had been taken to a hospital by ambulance, her sister, Mercedes, arrived on the scene. Mercedes, 32, said the deputy accused of attacking her sister was still present and tried to convince her to call the coroner to have Arnold committed to a hospital for mental health problems. She refused.

“He was just trying to cover up what he did by saying my sister is crazy," she said.

In the following days and weeks, Mercedes and multiple family members said, the same deputy has rolled by their house multiple times in what she believes to be an attempt to intimidate them. But she said she and her family are not afraid and will continue to speak up until the Sheriff's Office holds its deputies accountable.

Family Sees Video of Charlotte Police Shooting Black Man Dead

By Andy Sullivan and Greg Lacour

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – The family of the black man whose shooting death by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, triggered two nights of riots viewed video of the episode on Thursday, but a lawyer for the family of Keith Scott said it was unclear if Scott was holding a gun when killed.

Scott’s family called on police to immediately release the two police videos that they saw, adding pressure on police to make them public. The call came as Charlotte braced for a possible third straight night of violence.

Scott, 43, was killed on Tuesday by a black police officer as part of a police search for another man. Police contend Scott was carrying a gun when he approached officers and ignored repeated orders to drop it. His family previously said he was holding a book, not a firearm.

His death is the latest to stir passions in the United States over the police use of deadly force against black men. The family’s viewing of the video came on the same day that a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man whose car had broken down and blocked a road.

In Charlotte, Scott’s family said it still had “more questions than answers” after watching two police body camera videos of the officer shooting him dead in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

“While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time,” Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the family, said in the statement.

“It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands,” the statement said, adding that Scott’s hands were by his sides and he was slowly walking backward.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney has said the video supported the police account of what happened but does not definitively show Scott pointing a gun at officers.

PROTESTERS GATHER AGAIN

The rioting in Charlotte in response to Scott’s death led North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency and call in the National Guard.

Nine people were injured and 44 arrested in riots on Wednesday and Thursday morning. One man was critically wounded by a gunshot.

Protesters began gathering again on Thursday after nightfall, with some 200 people marching to chants of “release the video” and “Whose streets? Our streets.”

Helicopters circled overhead and about 15 National Guard troops in camouflage stood around a Humvee outside the Omni Hotel, where much of the violence took place on Wednesday.

Many of the protesters dispute the official account of Scott’s death, but Putney told reporters he would not release the video at this time, in part to protect the investigation.

The decision to withhold the video from the public was criticized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and members of the clergy from the Charlotte area.

“There must be transparency and the videos must be released,” the Rev. William Barber, who sits on the national board of the NAACP, told a news conference.

Charlotte’s reluctance to release the video stands in contrast to Oklahoma, where officials on Monday released footage of the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher by police after his vehicle broke down on a highway.

A long series of controversial fatal police shootings of black men across the United States has sparked more than two years of protests asserting racial bias and excessive force by police and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scott’s killing was the 214th of a black person by U.S. police this year out of an overall total of 821, according to Mapping Police Violence, an anti-police violence group created out of the protest movement. There is no national-level government data on police shootings.

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Dan Freed and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Leslie Adler)

 

PHOTO: A masked protester walks in the streets downtown during another night of protests over the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake

Darren Seals: Ferguson Activist Found Dead In Burning Car With Gunshot Wound

(Reuters) – Missouri detectives have not determined a motive or identified any witnesses in an investigation into the death of a man who led protests in the city of Ferguson following the fatal 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a law enforcement officer, police said on Wednesday.

Protest leader Darren Seals, 29, was found shot inside a burning car in the village of Riverview, about five miles east of Ferguson, early on Tuesday, St. Louis County Police said in a statement.

Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, gained national attention because of rioting after the August 2014 shooting of Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by white police officer Darren Wilson. Most protests were peaceful, but violence erupted again when a grand jury decided not to bring charges against Wilson.

A federal investigation later found patterns of racial discrimination by Ferguson police.

The demonstrations helped to coalesce the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.

“I don’t recall anyone having a longer protest, a more productive protest, a more creative protest than what we did,” Seals said in an interview with MTV released in November 2014. “I don’t think people will ever really appreciate what we did until years from now.”

Hours before Seals‘ death, he posted on Twitter about Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers National Football League quarterback who protested racial injustice and police brutality by declining to stand for the national anthem, and the U.S. presidential election. In his Twitter profile, Seals described himself as a “businessman, revolutionary, activist, unapologetically BLACK, Afrikan in AmeriKKKa, fighter, leader.”

Police have not determined a motive for the crime or identified any witnesses, Sergeant Shawn McGuire said. McGuire declined to say in which part of Seals‘ body he was shot.

County police said officers were first called to investigate a burning vehicle in Riverview. “When the fire was extinguished, a deceased male subject was located inside of the vehicle,” the department said in a statement.

Seals, whose last-known address was in St. Louis, was identified as the victim.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; editing by Grant McCool)

Photo: An undated photo of Darren Seals from his facebook account. Darren Seals via Facebook/Handout via REUTERS

Not Every Police Shooting Is Unjust

If the violent eruptions in Milwaukee earlier this month were familiar, it’s because they seemed to follow a script that, by now, has become numbingly routine. A Milwaukee police officer shot and killed a young black man. Protests and condemnations followed. Police were accused, once again, of treating black citizens as target practice.

In the last two years, police violence against unarmed black Americans has rightly claimed public attention, launching a new civil rights movement by a loose-knit collection of young activists cooperating under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.” Aided by ubiquitous cellphone cameras, they have helped to bring much-needed scrutiny to police tactics that are dangerous, unfair and probably racist. Their calls for greater police accountability have echoed through this political season.

But that familiar script — the one in which citizens appropriately protest a needless police shooting — may not be the one that played out in Milwaukee earlier this month. (And rioting and arson are never justified, in any event.) According to city officials, 23-year-old Sylville Smith, who fled police after a traffic stop, had a gun in hand when he turned to confront a police officer. The officer, in turn, shot him dead.

There were no bystanders to record the episode, no eyewitnesses coming forward to claim Smith had his hands up. There is no independent video footage available. But Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters that a still image from the police officer’s body camera shows Smith holding a gun as he turns toward the officer. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the officer reacted by firing his weapon.

Not every police shooting of a black man is unjustified. Sometimes law enforcement authorities have no choice but to shoot a criminal suspect who behaves in a way that poses risks — both to police personnel and to civilians.

There are plenty of cases wherein police officers have escalated confrontations, threatened violence needlessly, and even killed black men and boys who posed no risk. Those victims deserve to be held apart from the street thugs whose confrontations with police necessarily end violently. They deserve the protests and demonstrations, the news conferences and demands for new tactics that have come from Black Lives Matter activists. Think Eric Garner and Alton Sterling. Think Tamir Rice and John Crawford III. Think Walter Scott and Samuel DuBose.

Don’t think Michael Brown. I still chafe at the mention of his name. Brown’s 2014 shooting death, paradoxically, became the cause celebre that fueled the birth of Black Lives Matter, but he was no innocent. A U.S. Justice Department investigation found that Brown, who had just stolen cigars from a convenience store, likely struggled with the police officer who tried to arrest him. Forensic evidence suggested that he didn’t have his hands up when he was shot, despite witness testimony that he did.

Yes, yes, civilians have every right to hold law enforcement officials to a higher standard, to insist that police officers learn to de-escalate conflicts, to demand that police who recklessly target unarmed civilians are not only prosecuted but also convicted.

Citizens in places such as Milwaukee, where systemic racism still thrives, also have every right to demand better schools, equal employment opportunities, and a criminal justice system that does not disproportionately incarcerate black men and women. Those unjust conditions — and crushing poverty — helped fuel the rage that lit fires in the wake of Smith’s death.

But those of us who insist on reforming a criminal justice system still plagued by racism must also acknowledge that even police officers who do everything right will sometimes end up firing their weapons. That’s the nature of their work. And much of that work takes place in dangerous neighborhoods, where the law-abiding citizens are most at risk.

Sylville Smith was no Philando Castile, the well-liked cafeteria worker shot dead in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, during a traffic stop in July — killed, his girlfriend said, as he reached for his ID. It stretches credibility to act as if their deaths were equally unjust.

(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Photo: A burned down gas station is seen after disturbances following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

Sylville Smith, Racial Martyr

As racial martyrs go, you could hardly do worse than Sylville Smith.

He was no Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice, no unarmed innocent gunned down. No, Milwaukee police say Smith was an armed 23-year old with a lengthy arrest record — drugs, weapons, robbery — who bolted from a traffic stop Saturday afternoon. They say he ran a short distance, then wheeled around, gun in hand, refusing orders to drop it. Whereupon the police officer shot and killed him.

“I’m not going to say he was an angel,” Smith’s godmother, Katherine Mahmoud, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The officer who killed him was a year older than Smith and black, like him. Though perceptions are obviously subject to change once body-cam footage is released, there is at this writing no reason to believe the officer acted improperly and, indeed, no serious allegation that he did. As such, this incident seems an unlikely focal point for public outrage.

That it became one anyway, that Smith’s death sparked two nights of arson, shooting and general unrest, is an ominous sign. It suggests the rise of a species of anger inimical to any hope of racial reconciliation in Milwaukee — and cities far beyond.

A certain amount of anger in the face of injustice is not necessarily a bad thing. Such anger — defined as a passionate impatience with unfair status quo — is often a necessary catalyst for progress. But when there is no progress even after long years, anger can intermix with frustration and despair and become something much less constructive.

It can become something that doesn’t listen, doesn’t reason, doesn’t even hope. Something that simply explodes.

African Americans in Wisconsin’s largest city say Smith’s death was the last straw after years of racially stratified policing. It is hardly immaterial that an officer was not charged just two years ago in the controversial shooting death of a mentally ill black man. Or that the department is under Justice Department review which, to its credit, it requested.

Who will be shocked if that probe finds what other probes have found in cop shops around the country: patterns of institutionalized racism that corrode public trust and impinge the ability of police to do their jobs.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency, when such probes are done, to treat the affected department as unique, an outlier. Think of the person who sees a drop of water here, a drop of water there, another drop over there, yet somehow never perceives the storm.

It’s worth noting, too, that Mike Crivello, president of the Milwaukee police union, issued a statement after the shooting to “denounce” the idea of racism in the department’s ranks. Of course, no institution of any size can credibly make a blanket claim of freedom from bias, but that didn’t stop him. That should tell you something.

Here’s the thing: You get tired of being treated as an unreliable witness to your own experience. You get sick of not being heard. Black Milwaukee has complained for years about biased policing. Yet the police chief pronounced himself “surprised” by this uprising. Apparently, he hasn’t been listening.

The rest of us would do well to avoid that mistake. If this unrest is an omen, it is also an opportunity — for civic self-examination and accountability, for giving the people a voice, for listening to what they have to say. For making change.

This violence, following what might well have been a justified shooting, was tragic and troubling. But it also made one thing starkly clear. African Americans have been demanding justice a very long time.

And they’re getting tired of asking nicely.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Photo: Kimberly Neal, sister of Sylville Smith, speaks at a vigil after disturbances following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. August 14, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Cop Killers Serve No Cause

How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?

He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.

Montrell Jackson was not the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.

So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line — being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.

“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”

Nine days later, he was dead.

Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality. But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.

One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.” Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot. “Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”

These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.

But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?

That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.

But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.

We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.

Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

 

Photo: Police officers attend a vigil after a fatal shooting of Baton Rouge policemen, at Saint John the Baptist Church in Zachary, Louisiana, July 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Jeffrey Dubinsky

The Summer Of Our Discontent

Now is the summer of our discontent, Shakespeare might say, with none to make it glorious.

Under a broiling sun, Washington feels stuck on the head of a pin, as Democrats look forward to one party convention in Philadelphia and Republicans dread theirs in Cleveland. What if they gave a party and nobody came? Some fear the party’s about over, now that Donald Trump has crashed it.

The funeral of five Dallas police officers slain by a black former Army reservist was a solemn panoply of presidential unity. To comfort a country rocked by two years of police violence against black men, George W. Bush and Barack Obama led the grieving in the summer’s darkest hour. They represent opposing sides of a desperately divided country, so why not give peace a chance in Dallas, a highly segregated big city? The bloodshed in 1963, the day President Kennedy died — that history can be overcome.

(But I majored in history.)

Yes, the presidents seemed to say to restless street rage: Black lives matter. And yet, police lives matter more, when it comes down to official attention and rites of mourning.

Nothing is resolved. Nice try, though. Angst festers in Dallas, in Baltimore, in Ferguson, Missouri, — to name but a few cities sundered by racially streaked encounters between white police officers and black civilians. Police brutality is nothing new, but it has sunk deeper into the cultural soil and black men have born the brunt of it.

As a white woman, I witnessed it for one night in Baltimore. You haven’t lived until you’ve spent a night in the Baltimore women’s jail.

It’s been real, police militarization, since 2001. Just the other day, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it was caught on camera. Police with excessive body armor, carrying clubs and weapons as if they were going into battle against civilians at a peaceful protest. In Minnesota, another questionable civilian police-involved death recently took place. The Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, conceded race was probably a factor.

And that is how bad it is. The Black Lives Matter movement has changed civilian awareness. Whether it has changed police behavior is the question. The despair of this summer alone suggests not. Police have the power, and they like it that way. Race relations are plunging to their lowest level since 1992, The New York Times said.

Politics in Obama’s final summer is full of spite, with one Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, asking what planet Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is living on. That kind of personal enmity didn’t used to happen on the floor.

Senators look ready for a change of season from this summer of our discontent. The president, too, looks weary, his face etched with sorrow as he reached the end of his words on racially based police violence. “I’ve seen how inadequate words can be,” he declared in Dallas, “in bringing about lasting change.”

As the first black president, that has to be painful. Then again, Obama never ran to change America’s colors, to lighten a heart of darkness. He cast himself as a post-racial president, dealing with race only in case of emergencies.

Congress just marked its last day on the job until September. Hillary Clinton came to the Capitol to sit down to rally the team of Senate Democrats over lunch. Wish I were there, to see if she could lighten the gloom.

Bush, the former president, gave a good oration in Dallas, but how much “street cred” does he have? His entire war presidency brought this moment upon us. Had he not been so quick to invade Iraq on false grounds, we might have recalled that 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi. None were Iraqi. He sowed suspicion at home and started a clandestine “war on terror” that involved torturing detainees. The precision shooter in the Dallas slayings got his military training in Afghanistan — Bush’s first stop in his war — where we still have soldiers deployed.

Police departments across America inherited pieces of the Pentagon’s excess war equipment — (a policy Obama later opposed.) I saw with a reporter’s eyes, in Baltimore, how police demeanor shifted in unsettling ways, to a more aggressive “us vs. them” stance. Several relentlessly pursued poor Freddie Gray one Sunday morning, a “suspect” who broke his back in police custody and later died. Riots followed.

Not a pretty pass right now, while the sun is high in the summer of our discontent.

Photo: File picture of members of the group Black Lives Matter marching to city hall during a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Craig Lassig