The Border Patrol’s Rodney King

The recent Secret Service Scandal, along with the blowback from the GSA executives who spent nearly one million taxpayer dollars on excesses in Las Vegas, are excellent examples of minor events that will be immediately forgotten after the November elections.  The media are very good at bloviating these events into political porn at the expense of other much less titillating, but more crucial scandals requiring thoughtful consideration and judgment by voters.

So while the media pundits churn out explanations for how GSA’s self-indulgent bureaucrats could yet again raise the bar on federal hubris, the death of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas on a PBS broadcast goes virtually undiscussed by mainstream media too busy bemoaning the waste of almost one million taxpayer dollars.  It really is inexcusable that after two decades of Rodney Kings ritualized beating by the Los Angeles police, the “anniversary” of this event receives only momentary attention before the media spotlight shifts to the lowest-common-denominator scandal.  While Rodney King is quickly memorialized, then once again forgotten, few commentators dare to compare Mr. King’s treatment to Border Patrol agents beating Hernandez-Rojas while he pleaded for his life.

So too does it seem inexcusable the media suggestion that more women in the Secret Service may have tempered the bad behavior of Secret Service agents who partied with prostitutes.  The Secret Service scandal is much less about gender than it is all about the lack of supervision of the Secret Service-and all those others who protect our President-outside the United States.

In contrast what looks very much like the Border Patrol’s own Rodney King case-although in fairness to those agents involved investigations are not yet complete-is most certainly about gender in the Border Patrol: the Secret Service has twice the number of female agents than the Border Patrol.   But equally important to the Border Patrol’s Rodney King, there is an incomprehensible lack of formal training at the academy producing agents who in many cases have less than sixty days of training in immigration law, Spanish, and weapons before they begin their work patrolling the line.

The higher-ups in the Border Patrol know they are facing a big, big problem because they made the decision to lower academy standards in order to meet recruitment and retention goals as the Border Patrol jumped from 3,500 to more than 24,000 in less than ten years.  But knowing about the problems-gender issues and lack of professional training-and developing solutions are two different animals.  And with a national media more attune to focusing on minor scandals than substantive, more complex societal issues, campaign porn yet again wins in the weekly ratings.

In spite of our national system of media, the death of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas at the border wall is not going to disappear from the collective memory of many Americans.  Even though his death raises a number of complex issues not suitable for a ten second sound bite, Americans will sooner or later-in spite of our system of media-be forced to confront issues that will not go away: immigration, racism, gender, and poorly trained federal law enforcement.

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