Justice for Marlo Custodio

Concerning the case of friend, fellow student, former Speech and Debate member and De Anza student body president Marlo Custodio, I’ve somewhat deliberately avoided the issue of his current troubles with the San Jose police force. Mainly because while social justice in general is of interest to me, and the cause of more than a few temper flareups, my understanding of the local face of the issue is embarrassingly and soberly scarce.

I come from a relatively well-to-do background. Though I went to public school all my life, I’ve always been in the upper-class sort of public school, with performances and reputation in line with the closed-gate snobbery of the private institutions. Though my family has wavered between low- and actual-middle-class, dipping into the former quite heavily in the current economy, we’ve never starved or missed a bill or even gone without internet since the early 90s. All of my dramas and problems’ve been decidedly bourgeoisie and luxurious.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be tasered by the cops – and then see them rough up my mother.

Marlo can. So has many others in the poorer neighborhoods of San Jose. For all the acclaim, for all the fame lauded upon this city, the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” and the birth of the information technologies industry as we know it now, we so very easily ignore the sewage, both industrial and social, that we churn out to maintain that image.

The sad thing about Custodio’s ongoing campaign against the charges levied at him and his family by the police isn’t that it happened to him. It’s that it’s not at all unique. Us suburban Silicon Valleyites tend to think that racial strife and tension’s something that happens in the southern, more rural areas of the country – and even with our own problems, mainly in the southern, more rural areas of the state. When news about a shooting in San Carlos and Race pops up in our MercNews feeds, when a rowdy Mardi Gras has a half-dozen people tasered and locked up for the night, we altogether too quickly dismiss it as the deserved punishment for a bunch of riffraffs and gangsta rap blaring assholes.

In our smug progressive liberalism, we forget to check on ourselves to see if we’re not taking the situation a wee bit too lightly.

The San Jose Police Department has not had an unblemished record. Their use of brutal, unnecessary force has been documented time and time again – and for each case, forgotten by us time and time again. It doesn’t matter if we happen to have one of the most diverse policing forces in the nation, much less the world – when they draw a dividing line between Us and Them, between blue uniforms and low-riding jeans, when they shoot a kid with a taser on suspicion of being poor and Hispanic, it doesn’t matter if the one doing the tasering is Hispanic too.

The police force naturally attracts bullies. Just because they get to have guns and batons and drive around in overpriced and underspecced Fords with fancy logos on them doesn’t mean they inherently deserve our respect. They are public servants – not just to the rich and privileged, but to every last one of us, regardless of creed, faith, color, gender, orientation or hairdo. They earn their masters’ respect by serving all of us with the same high level of competence – and they lose their right to their hundred thousand dollar bonuses, mahogany desks and jelly-filled donuts when they start mistaking themselves as the rulers as opposed to enforcers of the rule.

Marlo Custodio has a temper, and a historically explosive one at that. But he didn’t succeed to the student body presidency after a hotly contested election that saw an attempt to bar him four times over by blowing up at any provocation, big or small. These days, his temper’s expressed in verbal jabs, and I don’t find it inconceivable that he might’ve said something inappropriate to an officer. But, I emphasize, that is no fucking crime. And that does not deserve a criminal record, much less a tasering. Much less a tasering for his entire goddamn family.

Every single last officer involved in this case deserves more than a scolding – far more than a slap on the wrist for being bad boys. Far more than getting fired, even. For their disproportionate response to Marlo Custodio, a proportionate punishment is warranted – as a demonstration to all police who think it okay to categorize their fellow human beings in order of likelihood to win a police brutality lawsuit against them.

I say we should give Marlo the taser.


~ by Gonzo Mehum on August 3, 2009.

One Response to “Justice for Marlo Custodio”

  1. What the hell did happen?

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