There has been a lot of discussion about the divide between police and the citizenry-the people they’re meant to serve and protect-over the last several years. In the summer of 2020, during the anti-police brutality protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the conversation began to pick up steam only to fizzle out less than a year later.

Four years later we’re facing an increasingly radicalized and more militarized than ever law enforcement apparatus that set a record for the killing of unarmed civilians just last year. A sign that all of the talk during the summer of 2020 was just that. Talk. What we’re seeing today is certainly not progress because it’s not just the cops.

It’s the culture that creates these physically aggressive and often, murderous environments.

On May 23, the city of Fontana, CA paid nearly $900,000 for the “psychological torture” of a man by police officers to get a false confession for the murder of his 71-year-old father who was still alive. The case not only highlighted just how far cops will go to get false confessions out of people but also just how depraved they can be while doing it.

On Aug. 7, 2018, Thomas Perez Sr. went for a walk at about 10 p.m. with the family’s dog. Minutes later, the dog returned home without Perez Sr. Thomas Perez Jr. then called the police and within hours, he was in an interrogation room with Fontana detectives who didn’t believe his story and were determined to force a confession out of him.

They were convinced he had killed his father. Their reasoning? He seemed “distracted” and “unconcerned” during the 911 call. Despite the house undergoing obvious renovations, police said it was in disarray and declared the mess was a sign of a struggle. At one point they claimed to have blood at the home but none related to an assault was recovered.

During the process of coercing a confession from Perez Jr., detectives withheld his psychiatric medications for 17 hours causing Perez to go into withdrawals. At certain points during the process, Perez started hitting himself, pulling his hair out, making anguished noises, and tearing his shirt off. Detectives even brought his dog into the interrogation room telling Perez they would have to euthanize the dog because of his actions.

After coercing a false confession from Perez Jr., he almost immediately attempted suicide over the death of his father which police convinced him of. But it didn’t end there. Despite Perez Sr. being found alive hours later, police obtained another search warrant for the Perez house alleging Perez Jr. had attacked an “unknown” victim, and again, no evidence was found.

In a summary case, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee wrote, “He was sleep deprived, mentally ill, and significantly undergoing symptoms of withdrawal from his psychiatric medications.”

“A reasonable juror could conclude that the detectives inflicted unconstitutional psychological torture on Perez,” Gee wrote in her summary judgment. “Their tactics indisputably led to Perez’s subjective confusion and disorientation, to the point he falsely confessed to killing his father, and tried to take his own life.”

The depravity, in this case, goes beyond the torture as officers continued to falsely accuse Perez Jr. of a violent crime after doing nothing more than reporting his father missing. The psychological damage done by torture is unfathomable and continuing to target someone with psychotic games even after he’s been proven innocent isn’t just heartless, it’s depraved.

This brings us to radicalizing police. From training programs, outside groups like militias and police gangs, and even social media radicalization, the us versus them mentality that has always been present in law enforcement has created a divide bigger than ever.

As long as that divide exists, cops are disconnected from the people they are supposed to serve making it easier for them to brutalize us during protests, getting traffic tickets, or even calling for help like Perez Jr. did. This is a tragic case that only adds to the problems within the culture of policing which has done nothing but become more radicalized through the decades.

The first thing any fascist country throughout history has ever done to grab power and maintain its grip on the population was to equip and militarize its police forces. Don’t look away.

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Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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