Broken Windows And Broken Lives

The Broken Windows Theory led to an era of aggressive policing of petty offenses — which in turn led to increased confrontation between police and civilians.

The theory depends upon the proposition that tolerating bad conduct, however petty, sets social norms, and that bad conduct steadily escalates to meet those norms.

Second, at the community level, disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones. Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.

Let's take this as true for a moment.

If tolerating broken windows leads to more broken windows and escalating crime, what impact does tolerating police misconduct have?

Under the Broken Windows Theory, what impact could it have but to signal to all police that scorn for rights, unjustified violence, and discrimination are acceptable norms? Under Broken Windows Theory, what could be the result but more scorn, more violence, and more discrimination?

Apparently we've decided that we won't tolerate broken windows any more. But we haven't found the fortitude to do something about broken people. To put it plainly: just as neighborhood thugs could once break windows with impunity, police officers can generally kill with impunity. They can shoot unarmed men and lie about it. They can roll up and execute a child with a toy as casually as one might in Grand Theft Auto. They can bumble around opening doors with their gun hand and kill bystanders, like a character in a dark farce, with little fear of serious consequences. They can choke you to death for getting a little mouthy about selling loose cigarettes. They can shoot you because they aren't clear on who the bad guy is, and they can shoot you because they're terrible shots, and they can shoot you because they saw something that might be a weapon in your hand — something that can be, frankly, any fucking thing at all, including nothing.

What are we doing about this? Are we pushing back against unwarranted uses of force and deprivations of rights, to prevent them from becoming self-perpetuating norms?

No. We're not pursuing the breakers of windows. If anything, we are permitting the system steadily to entrench their protected right to act that way. We give them second and third and fourth chances. We pretend that they have supernatural powers of crime detection even when science shows that's bullshit. We fight desperately to support their word even when they are proven liars. We sneer that "criminals have too many rights," then give the armed representatives of our government stunning levels of procedural protections when they abuse or even kill us.

Do we really believe in Broken Windows Theory? If we do, how can we be surprised at more casual law enforcement racism, more Americans dead at the hands of police, more matter-of-fact violations of our constitutional rights? We left the windows broken. We helped set the norm. They're just following it.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Josh C says

    It seems like ceding too much ground right at the start to let "taking action on all minor infractions" mean "taking disproportionate action".

  2. sinij says

    Is there any value in discussing prevalence of violence among black men in the context of police brutality?

  3. eddie says

    Is there any value in discussing prevalence of violence among black men in the context of police brutality?

    No, there isn't. People are individuals, not statistical aggregates.

  4. Moebius Street says

    I'm frustrated that this is still being discussed as a racial issue, when it seems to me that the real problem is abuse of power against those who the powerful are putatively protecting.

  5. Logomancer says

    They can choke you to death for getting a little mouthy about selling lose cigarettes.

    It should be "loose cigarettes", yes?

  6. irrelevant says

    I find the analogy unconvincing, but the tone speaks to me!

    Is there any value in discussing prevalence of violence among black men in the context of police brutality?

    "The police routinely act with callous impunity" and "the police are very rarely racist in any direct sense" are not contradictory facts.

  7. Nathan says

    Ken, I'm pretty sure you don't really take requests, but I for one would really appreciate an in-depth post on Grand Juries and the differences in how they normally work vs what happens when it's a case of alleged police malfeasance. The media in particular has been really terrible on reporting what the proper role of a grand jury is, and the general problems with them, and I'd love to have one of your posts to point to.

    So far I've mostly been pointing at this: http://www.popehat.com/2014/02/27/the-kaley-forfeiture-decision-what-it-looks-like-when-the-feds-make-their-ham-sandwich/

  8. a_random_guy says

    People are individuals, not statistical aggregates.

    Yes, but – people will look at statistical aggregates. Even if you treat every person exactly like every other, you will still find that disproportionally many young, black men are arrested, roughed up, or even killed by police. The reason is simple: a higher proportion of young, black men are criminals.

    It's rather like the schools accused of racism, because they punish more black students than other races. The fact that their black students misbehave more often? Oh, no, it's not PC to discuss that. Let's forbid the school from disciplining out-of-control students who happen to be black, so that we have better statistics.

    This amounts to treating symptoms, rather than the cause. We have a problem with young black men – political correctness be damned, this is fact. We need to understand and address the causes of this problem; the (apparently) disproportionate statistics will then take care of themselves.

    None of which is any excuse for excessive police violance against anyone.

  9. Concerned Troll says

    Ken, I have a guy named Han Fei on the phone. He wants to know what a window is. Should I tell him you'll call back?

  10. HamOnRye says

    I am not sure if I buy into the broken windows theory, and I am extremely suspicious of nearly all claims from law enforcement, that enable them to assert more aggressive tactics.

    With that being said, I would ask the question is that actually what the police are doing (operating under the broken windows theory) or is it something else?

    If you are willing to commit serious crimes, then chances are good you commit lesser ones as well. Law enforcement has been taking the view that by taking a hard line on lesser crime you often apprehend those who commit the major offenses.

  11. Pharniel says

    Working as Designed – The problem is that the cops getting used to abusing one set of people has proved the broken window theory because the group of people it's "OK" to do "Whatever It Takes" to keeps expanding.

  12. says

    @ random guy: yes, there is a problem with young black men, but the causes of it, which you agree we must address, are often external to the children those young black men were once.

    I am not sure I can ever buy that black children misbehave disproportionately more than all other ethnicities/races, yet there is pretty convincing evidence that black children are punished for perceived bad behaviour disproportionately more than white children.

    I would go so far as to say that in areas where the larger minority students present in schools are Latinos, those children are punished more often, and the punishments are disproportionately harsher, than white children doing exactly the same things.

  13. Jon Marcus says

    @HamOnRye, Benjamin Bratton is the chief of police who first brought the "Broken Windows" theory to New York, under Giuliani. When De Blasio was elected he brought Bratton back as chief, explicitly to reimplement "Broken Windows." Pantaleo was working under the Broken Windows theory when he got in Garner's face for selling loose cigarettes.

  14. Robobagpiper says

    Is there any value in discussing prevalence of violence among black men in the context of police brutality?

    No, and here's why. It is correct that about 49% of serious crime is committed by African-Americans. It's also true that about 25% of police homicides are committed against African-Americans.

    If it were simply a matter of "police having to kill the bad guy", then bad guys being (more or less) bad guys regardless or race, then we would expect 49% of people killed by cops to be black.

    The most probable way to get that disparity is that police are killing a significant number of people, especially black ones, who are *not* serious felons.

    So the "prevalence of violence among black men" is precisely what tells us that at least half of the black men killed by cops are *not* the bad guys, possibly higher once one accounts for the fact that they also kill non-felon non-blacks.

  15. says

    @Nathan: This one on FiveThirtyEight is decent: It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did. It discusses the statistics it's got access to — eg in 2010 there were 162,000 federal cases presented to grand juries, and of those 162,000 they returned indictments on all but 11 — but I wish they had more numbers to crunch (statistics for cases involving police shootings would, presumably, say a lot).

    @a_random_guy:

    The reason is simple: a higher proportion of young, black men are criminals.

    What a relief; nice to know how simple it all is.

    Out of curiosity, do you have any statistical evidence that supports the claim that "a higher proportion of young, black men are criminals"? Not evidence that a higher proportion of young, black men are stopped, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for crimes? Because those aren't the same thing.

  16. Benqual says

    It is odd for me to be in the position of the optimist, but I've been thinking that the reason that more issues with police have been coming to light lately is that they have been coming to light. 60 years ago in the South, no-one would have questioned the recent shootings. Even 20 years ago, issues like the guy in the Southwest that was taken to the hospital and "searched" or the recent stories about cops shooting harmless dogs would have only come to light on the national stage if a local journalist wrote a particularly pointed story on the issue. The way to overcome corruption is through exposure and the Internet has now provided that tool. The issues that have come to light recently may not signal an increase in the corruption of the police. It can be a painful first step toward an eventually more transparent police-citizen relationship.

  17. Giblert says

    I think many have now become aware and weary of police's unbalanced use of physical and legal strength – but what's our next move? I'd love some pragmatic advice on how to chip away at the thick blue legal shields. What would your top four change-the-norm activities be?

    Bronze level activist: Raise social awareness by linking Popehat, re-tweeting LA Liberty, responding to an acquaintance's comment of, "My uncles a cop" with rejoinders such as "How embarrassing" or "I'm sorry to hear that."

    Silver Level activist: Vote out incumbent warthogs that ignored police abuses, support politicians who might do a better job. Film police and flex your rights where possible

    Gold Level Activist: Donate $50 to the Disable And Retire Police Officers Fund" or a Cessation Of Police Superpowers (C.O.P.S.) . If such things existed.

    Diamond level Activist: Be(come) rich, engage in legal battles that are worth fighting, helping those that may be ruined financially by the state in fighting for themselves.

    Clark Level Activist: Burn the MF'er to the ground.

  18. James says

    The whole discourse on Michael Brown misses the point. For the record, I grew up in St. Louis and my first job was running ambulance calls in areas of St. Louis County (including Ferguson) that did not have a fire department ambulance. I responded to a lot of bar fights in the area! I also picked up bodies from crime scenes to transport to the county morgue in Clayton for the Office of the Medical Examiner. I saw plenty of premature death.

    The questions we fail to focus on is why Michael has just completed a strong arm robbery, why was he high on drugs, why was he walking down the center of the street, why when requested by a law enforcement officer to move to the sidewalk did he think an acceptable reply was "FU"?

    He was no baby, he was a 6'4", 290 pound, 18 year old man. He could vote. He could serve in the armed forces, he could do anything any other St. Louis area adult could do. So why did he take the rash actions that led to his death?

    I suspect a lot has to do with he dearth of economic opportunity and the quality of the schools in the area, which were marginal back when I was in high school. Desperate people who think they have little control of their futures despair and do stupid things. Until we address those issues we will have more innocent people hurt, and in that category I include both Michael Brown AND Darren Wilson.

  19. The Baker says

    We have been tolerating broken Windows for years, since it's inception actually. In tolerating bugs, vulnerabilities and incompatibilities that come with each release of the (arguably) most popular and wide spread OS's, we make it acceptable for other software manufacturers to produce buggy software riddled with security holes. Most people now accept the fact that they have to work around and pay for updates to resolve these issues. I believe that the parallels are the same, we accept Windows being broken so we accept that the mosaic of software around it can be broken too. We even accept a broken Windows being replaced by another broken Windows, or that adding more colors will fix it. The fault isn't primarily with Microsoft or our law enforcement agencies, it lies in our expectations, in our willingness to accept what is available without complaint, to look the other way. It is easy to look at the Ferguson PD, the NYPD, LAPD or Chicago PD … Microsoft, Oracle or Adobe, and say that it is ALL their fault. It isn't, they are just meeting our expectations. We do have a voice and it is starting to be heard … at least during this news cycle.

  20. DonM says

    There was a study in New Jersey, that filmed roads, and then selected the speeders. They then had a group of people look at the photographs of the drivers and assign them to various races, irrespective of whether they were speeding or not. Roughly 2 speeders were black for every white that was speeding. Further, looking at the most serious speed violations, about 6 blacks were 15 mph above the limit for every 1 white that was 15 mph above the limit.

    Speeding is not a felony. It does raise questions about the possibility of racial differences in the way that risks are assessed by individuals. Don't know the answer. More research would be required.

    It did provide justification for NJ police who were under pressure for stopping about twice as many blacks as whites. The police behavior was justified by the discovery that the population that they should be stopping racially matched the population that they were stopping.

  21. The_Jack says

    A minor style point Mr. White. I totally agree that letting police get away with crimes encourages more crimes. That's pretty basic right there.

    And that is seperate from certian high profile cases where the policeman in question may or may not have done anything wrong.

    However, while reading the article I got a sense of "What's this *we* paleface?" Since, as you have been doing yourself for years, some of us have been pointing out the problem that comes from elevating one class of people above the law and how it's compounded when those same people are given police powers.

    And I agree with Gilbert that okay, we at least, know there is a problem and the question becomes what is to be done to adress it?

  22. The Man in the Mask says

    In re Michael Brown (@James), the strongarm robbery theory appears to have been debunked, but getting past that, we do have to ask why Brown — who grew up in that neighborhood and thus no doubt was completely aware of the reactions of white cops to black citizens, allegedly chose to go for Wilson's gun. WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?

    Brown, by all accounts, was fairly smart. He was facing someone nearly his size, armed with multiple weapons, in a squad car. So WHY would he do that? What's his motivation?

    I have asked and re-asked myself that question as I've read through the 4,799 pages of grand jury documents and so far, I have no answer. I suspect that none is forthcoming. But I would very much like to know.

    Topic shift: when I was a kid, Ferguson was all-white and mostly middle-class. Carefully crafted zoning laws were used to keep black families from moving in. But over time, as whites fled further and further out, that wall of bigotry started to crumble and black families became, as we know, the majority. However…while all that was happening, the white power structure remained largely intact, which is one of the structural reasons why things like this happen there. Same for the 2001 (2000?) shooting at the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru a few miles away: cops opened up on two guys in a car, killed them both, said the car lurched toward them…but video from the restaurant showed it didn't. They walked.

    So while Mike Brown is the victim-of-the-moment there, he's not the only one. This is not an isolated incident or a temporary problem. This is a 50-year-old cancer and we are only seeing the edges of it.

  23. En Passant says

    Ken wrote:

    If tolerating broken windows leads to more broken windows and escalating crime, what impact does tolerating police misconduct have? …

    Do we really believe in Broken Windows Theory? … We left the windows broken. We helped set the norm. They're just following it.

    Exactly the right questions. Unfortunately, the right people won't find it necessary to answer them. At best, the people who should answer will note the questions and dismiss them as irrelevant. Because they are well intentioned upstanding citizens, politically more powerful than, and well insulated from, the rabble and radicals who pose the question.

    Bring full bore prosecutions, put a few trigger-happy thugs in blue onto death row, and the situation will change. Historically that hasn't happened, and isn't likely to happen as long as prosecutors and judges perceive police as their most powerful political constituency.

    And maybe they're right. Nobody ever got elected by promising to prosecute misbehaving police.

  24. Dan Weber says

    The SimpleJustice blogpost was good, but he started kicking non-lawyers out of his comment thread. Which is entirely his prerogative, but then us laity can't ask any questions.

  25. C. S. P. Schofield says

    A few observations;

    A disproportionate number of the poor are dark skinned. There are doubtless a lot of reasons for this, although I think that the "Soft racism of lowered expectations" has a lot to do with it.

    The poor commit a disproportionate number of all violent crimes, especially when they see no other way up and out.

    When the most visible poor in America were the recently immigrant Irish, they carried a lot of the same baggage that Blacks do now, were harried disproportionately by the police of the time, and so forth. America does better than most societies at respecting the rights of the poor, but that doesn't mean we do well.

    I recall reading somewhere that, in an era when firearms were rare among the poor, one city block of Hell's Kitchen averaged a murder a night for a whole year. The inhabitants of Hell's Kitchen at the time were mostly white.

    The current low rate of violent crime has been attributed to all kinds of causes; more gun control, less gun control, higher rates of imprisonment, and (for all I know) global warming. The only one that makes sense to me is that the population is aging; violent crime is an activity of young men (by and large) and we have fewer young men per population.

    With the voting population broadly and loudly unwilling to tolerate raised taxes, and the Political Class unwilling to forgo their pet causes and hobbyhorses, too many governments on too many levels are using asset forfeiture and petty fines of all sort to raise money. That is annoying to the well off, but really oppressive for the poor.

    It doesn't help that the segment of the Political class that is most set on growing the regulatory powers of the State (often to absurd degrees) is also the part that has managed to sell itself as Champions of the Oppressed ™. No, I have no freaking idea what to do about that. It isn't as if the other party is going to be a whole lot better.

    What does all this mean? Damned if I know. But it all feeds in.

    I do have one notion; something of an idee fixe. IF we can break the lock that public education has on the schooling of the inner city poor, then some of them might (having seen it from the inside) come up with ideas about how to break the cycle. In places where vouchers of charge schools have made some headway it does seem to be producing some good. That is kind of damming it with faint praise, but it's all I've got right now. One of the biggest problems with the wave of Progressivism that took over the Primary schools in the 20th century is that it took the positive results from small experimental schools where everybody was determined to make the experiment work and assumed that they would accrue to a system-wide implementation.

    OK, now tear my reasoning apart.

  26. Levi says

    It seems the grand jury now has a role of rubber-stamping unjust persecution and protecting police as individuals from just persecution.

  27. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Levi;

    I would argue two points;

    1) The word "now" in your post is, historically speaking, superfluous. Sadly.

    2) UNLESS strong evidence that officer Wilson's version of events is false exists, and has not been presented, charging him now would be either a) an actual injustice or b) premature. If the version of events he described is roughly accurate, then he is legally not guilty, regardless of his motives. Not a great outcome, but "We're gonna get the Bad Guy regardless of the rule we have to bend" is seldom if ever a good idea in the long run. If he is lying, and the version of events championed by the protesters is more or less accurate, charging him before that can be proved beyond reasonable doubt would (if I understand how this works, and IANAL) actually PROTECT him. Because once acquitted, he cannot be charged again.

    Or am I wrong?

  28. sorrykb says

    @C. S. P. Schofield:
    The police who choked Eric Garner to death didn't give a shit what school he attended. Nor did the cop who killed a 12-year-old for playing outside. To the police who kill with impunity, it wouldn't have made one damn bit of difference.

  29. Mikee says

    http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/year.html
    There has never been a year in American history where more than 300 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty.

    http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/causes.html
    In 2013 only 31 LEO's were killed by a firearm, almost as many were killed in car crashes, and almost as many were killed in falls, being struck by a vehicle, and job related illnesses combined.

    http://www.mintpressnews.com/us-police-murdered-5000-innocent-civilians-since-911/172029/
    Yet police killed between 500 and 1000 COMPLETELY INNOCENT people each year. People in America are more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.

    .. in the land that's not free .. and the home .. of the .. knave ..

  30. The Man in the Mask says

    @Schofield, your comment about asset forfeiture and petty fines is dead-on accurate in St. Louis County. There is a piece by Radley Balko in the Washington Post entitled "How municipalities in St. Louis County profit from poverty" that explains it better than I can, but let me try.

    All the tiny municipalities that were set up in STL County decades ago to support racial discrimination in housing STILL exist. They have their own mayors and town councils and police departments and court systems — even though some of those are all housed under one roof and staffed by part-time employees. But…all those people have to be paid.

    So imagine that you're part of the working poor. You have a second-shift job handling baggage at Lambert Field. You live near Goodfellow and Natural Bridge Road, just on the edge of the city. So as you drive to work, you pass through Pine Lawn and Jennings and Normandy and and and. Which means that you can be stopped for the same broken taillight six times. And you're not getting a friendly warning you're getting a ticket. Actually: six tickets.

    Now you're in trouble, because you can't afford to pay those. And you have six court appearances to make. Court is held in the evening — four hour's worth, with long lines, so you'll need the night off. SIX nights off. How are you going to manage that? And how will you pay? So you don't show up. And now a warrant is issued. So the next time you're pulled over, it'll show up on the check and you'll go to jail. Now you can't go to work, and while your family frantically tries to bail you out and pay your outstanding fines, you're in a cell. If you're lucky, you still have a job when you get out. But if not, now you have a record, so good luck getting another one. Legal counsel? Feh. You can't afford it.

    The number of outstanding warrants in Ferguson at the moment is something like 3.5 times the number of people who live there. It's HIGHER in some of the others. St. Louis City actually took the step of declaring an amnesty on 200,000 of them — all for petty stuff like overflowing trash and so on — because the situation has become ridiculous.

    Unsurprisingly, most of the people making money off this are white. Most of the people paying money into this are black. It's more-or-less an entirely legal and institutionalized extortion scam. And it has doomed generations to an inescapable cycle of poverty. The police are viewed — rather correctly — as the enforcers in this cash extraction process, and the population views themselves as occupied by a hostile opposing force that routinely arrests, beats, abuses, lies, shoots, and pretty much does whatever it wants.

    A partial solution to this problem would be to compel the dissolution of all those tiny fiefdoms and force their consolidation into a unified St. Louis County. Of course nobody riding the gravy train wants that, so there is considerable political pressure NOT to do this.

    I can walk down Chambers Road in Ferguson without being bothered. I can even put my hands in my pockets without worrying that a trigger-happy cop will think I have a gun. I can do this because I'm white, middle-aged, and innocuous. But take 30 years off my age, make me black, give me a few tattoos and different clothes, and I might as well paint a target on my chest. Everyone who lives there knows this. It's their reality, from birth. And the ceaseless grind of poverty and oppression creates epidemic despair and anger.

    Mike Brown was merely the catalyst. This fire has been quietly burning below ground for decades. It will take external forces to put it out, because the local powers-than-be want to preserve the status quo, and the citizens really don't have much choice. But will the Justice Department have the nerve to execute a federal take-over and force the issue? I rather doubt it.

    And so there will be more Mike Browns. And more Henry Davis's — who was charged with destruction of property for bleeding on the police officers that were beating him. And more whose names we will never know.

  31. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @sorrykb; You're right and you're wrong. The core problem is that the police are, and almost always have been, to protect the privileged against the unprivileged. The police are an improvement on the previous arrangement (usually soldiers), and a significant one, but that doesn't mean they don't need to be reigned in.

    That said, it may not be fair or just but the most effective way to generate popular support for reigning in State Thugs has been to support upward mobility for those upon whom they prey. Brown was a thug, and got shot by (maybe) another thug. Efforts to portray him as a choirboy may have struck a chord with his similarly unprivileged neighbors (some of them, anyway) but they have backfired with a significant portion of the population, which now supports Wilson whether he deserves it or not.

    But had Brown been going to an accredited college, studying pre-law, or pre-med, or some such, there would be more widespread doubt among the usual "We gotta support our Brave Men In Blue" ™ crowd. Just as the precursor to passing significant child labor laws was beginning to make them unnecessary, the precursor to reigning in the State's pattern of oppressing the poor is to make the poor something else; to make them upwardly mobile.

    The Statists (Democrat AND Republican) will hate that, and fight it tooth and nail when they think they can get away with it. They are, by and large, small souled people who desperately NNED a group they can lord it over. Hence their objections to actually doing anything useful to improve public schools, they opposition to actual immigration reform (as opposed to feel-good measures sure to suck in more shadow-people who will have to live by benevolence from above).

    The older I get the more suspicious I am that State sponsored Charity may do more harm than good. What is needed to tools by which people may bootstrap themselves.

    one reason I am for ending the War on Drugs 9one of many) is that I hope that, IF LEGALIZATION DOES NOT COME WITH SO MANY STRINGS ATTACHED THAT ONLY THOSE ALREADY PRIVILEGED CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE, it might allow small time dealers to go legit. They won't be the nicest people, and I suppose we'll get a percentage of proto-Kennedys (YUCK!), but their children will grow up going to court to enforce contracts, and being in a position to demand fair treatment from the cops. Instead of having to resort to gang wars and being blackmailed by the State Thugs.

    I'm rambling.

    You're right; an educated Brown might have been done in by a thug cop. but it would b a little easier to provide evidence that the cop was out of line. As matters stand, that hash';t really been done. Yes, there are people claiming that it is so, but there appears to be physical evidence consistent with the cop's side of things, and none with the other side.

    @Man in the Mask; I read Balko's piece, or one of them, anyway. I'm not persuaded that the system of small jurisdictions in and around Ferguson was set up primarily to oppress the poor brown folks, although that HAS become a major effect. Small governments attract small minds, who want power over people but lack the talent to rise higher and sop their desire festers. Local governments can be amazingly nasty, petty, and stupid, even in well to do, mostly pale, jurisdictions. I mind me a tale I was told about Flemington NJ; The local government was (and is) made up of people determined to have thing THEIR WAY, and to hell with reality. So a resurfacing of the local supermarket parking lot that should have cost $250,000 ended up costing $1,000,000 because of micromanagement (requirements for small islands and trees throughout; reduced the available parking space, adds nothing much to the looks, and the trees won't ever amount to much). Similarly the local (small) mall stood 90% empty for twenty years because of rampant egos in the local government AND on the part of the owner.

    It hurts the poor most. Most things do.

  32. Rick says

    It did provide justification for NJ police who were under pressure for stopping about twice as many blacks as whites. The police behavior was justified by the discovery that the population that they should be stopping racially matched the population that they were stopping.

    Play a game, sometime. Drive behind someone and try and figure out what race they are.
    It's not easy, is it?

  33. sorrykb says

    Is the idea of black and brown people in America not having to be in fear for their lives in any encounter with the police so far from attainable that ending poverty seems like a more realistic goal?

  34. AlphaCentauri says

    I would like to see enforcement of petty ordinances, but with petty consequences. There's a reason there are truant officers who aren't part of the regular police force.

    If a criminal never faces any consequences until he has committed a violent crime, your community will always have a baseline level of violent crime — and all the lesser stuff as well. And you'll be committed to incarcerating a lot of people because that's what happens to violent criminals.

    But instead of enforcing civil behavior with fines and community service, we ended up with "zero tolerance" policies. They were supposed to ensure Black kids weren't given harsher punishments than white kids, but instead they have served to make sure a higher proportion of Black kids get a harsh punishment for just doing the usual dumb kid stuff.

  35. Stevie says

    I have considerable difficulties in believing that this is not a result of the US constitution itself. I can recall, many years ago, being utterly horrified that school children were expected to salute the flag and recite oaths of allegience; these are the trappings of a totalitarian state, and I have seen nothing since then which would displace that conclusion.

    You don't need the broken windows theory; the police are just doing what police do in totalitarian states. They'd get along fine in North Korea; after all, totalitarian states are pretty much the same in functional terms. Complaining that you don't like the entirely predictible results of the Constitution doesn't really help; after all, you write a lot of stuff about free speech and complain that the rest of the world doesn't live up to your standards.

  36. Nobody says

    Ken, which of your family members would you send to ask a man to stop waving around something that might or might not be a gun? Would you send them up to a mentally disturbed person, gibbering madly and refusing to disarm? Even if you didn't know if they were the person from Sandy Hook or just some kid with a realistic plastic toy?

    Because that's what you're asking of us here. You're asking us to tell people that no, they cannot defend themselves and others, even when we do not have to look far to find horrific public shootings. Are you really willing to be responsible for the deaths of the people sent to stop them?

    I would like to live in a world where we can assume that children would not commit mass murder. Alas, that is quite objectively not this world. I do not have to look far to find similar scenarios where you would be leading the police–and those they were trying to protect–to their graves. You can say what you like about the other cases, but police responding to clear, public threats that prompted 911 calls have no reason not to respond to threats of deadly force in kind, even if they might be wrong.

    If you're going to second guess them, then I believe you should be the one out there taking away guns from mentally disturbed people. I won't even listen to second-guessing from people who won't put themselves into the line of fire.

  37. sorrykb says

    Nobody wrote:

    You're asking us to tell people that no, they cannot defend themselves and others, even when we do not have to look far to find horrific public shootings.

    No, we don't have to look far at all.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/04/phoenix-police-unarmed-man-killed-by-officer/19878931/
    http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/12/tamir_rice_familys_remembers_1.html

    So… How are people to defend themselves? Who's going to take the guns away from these killers?

  38. En Passant says

    Ken White December 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm :

    WHAT THE FUCK?

    Aggravated third degree thread drift.

  39. ThreadedDrifter says

    Aggravated third degree thread drift.

    So much drift in this thread I think I'm in a car movie set in Tokyo…

  40. says

    Bravo Ken.
    I've been thinking the exact same things this past week, if not two.

    I just have a problem getting the motivation to write it down these days, when I see it happening more and more. It's hard to drum up the motivation. It's not a problem all THAT confined to the US either, it happens in the UK. Where I went to school erupted in riots in 2011 after the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of London police, by a firearms team that was highly trained, with accurate weapons (MP10s), and in a coordinated raid, and still managed to shoot another officer, which was then initially used as justification for shooting Duggan.

    Or the shooting of DeMenzies, by anti-terrorism officers, who have been given more lattitude than ever despite one attack in the last what, 14 years? compared to the early 90s when there were 30-40/month (including one that almost blew me up in 93).

    I did publish some guidelines I thought might bring things back to a more sane way, about 2 years ago; trying to keep actual justice in mind, but also dealing with those 'broken windows' in an effective way, and it seems I need to revisit, and update them a little.

  41. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @sorrykb,

    My point is that, historically, minorities have been able to cease fearing for their lives every time they come in contact with The Authorities when they have started to move up the social ladder. Weird as it may seem, there was a time when the Irish were treated nearly as badly as blacks are today, and that didn't stop until they moved up. The same can be seen with other ethnic groups.

    It isn't that eradicating police misbehavior is so hard that ending poverty is easier. It's that the role of harassing the poor is pretty much BUILT IN to the idea of police, so the way to get them to stop harassing the brown is to help the brown stop being poor.

    A society in which the poor are treated the same as the rich? Maybe in heaven, policed by the Seraphim. Not among humans, ever. So we aim for a society in which an absolute minimum of shame is attached to having been poor at some time, and in which it is possible to climb up the social ladder without asking permission and paying off the regulators (whether via licensing or bribes) every time one turns around.

    The self-proclaimed Champions of the Poor are also the ones intent on regulating everything down to how big our sodas may be, and that isn't an accident. The Planners, the Statists, the ones who want the State to tell everybody to live they way they do themselves (or at least pretend to), desperately, DESPERATELY want to be Aristocrats. They have no particular qualifications to order the rest of us about, and many of them are imposingly stupid (I'm looking at YOU Nancy Pelosi), but they WANT IT. And so they work hard to make sure that there will always be an underclass that they can order about.

    They really are very much like the Plantation Aristocracy; those bastards expected their Black Slaves to be grateful, too.

  42. Mich says

    The cognitive dissonance (which for some seems to be verging into full-out psychosis) of so many people who are commenting on these cases (since I live in Cleveland I've heard way more about Tamir Rice) is frightening; respect for the police has somehow become twisted into this desperate defense that relies on twisting facts and insisting the victims are to blame and smearing their names, anything to avoid admitting that there are bad, racist, awful human beings who are employed by the police, that they are always given the benefit of the doubt even when the facts are overwhelmingly against them, and how often they walk away scot-free (or, like Darren Wilson, getting paid six figures to say that he'd shoot an unarmed person again).

    Those who say it isn't about race can't explain why white ammosexuals at the Bundy Ranch were able to point guns at federal officers without being mowed down, or how white open-carry jerkoffs can walk around with AR-15s and again–NOTHING happens to them, while at the same time the victims of these recent cases are all black and all of them subject to immediate deadly force without any of the enormous patience shown white guys with actual weapons, when cop cars roll up to within feet of a child and the police are shooting less than five seconds later. I often hear "Well there are plenty of white kids being shot too!" but when I ask them to name one, they can't. (Gonna claim it, have to back it up.)

    It's really disconcerting to have facts and evidence this clear and this OBVIOUS and so many still want to argue that no, it couldn't POSSIBLY be racial, well they must have done SOMETHING to make the cops shoot because cops never ever do anything wrong, well that tape doesn't MEAN anything it's not as if you watched it happen in front of your eyes.

    We've been well-trained not only to permit these abuses, but to be the staunchest defenders even of the indefensible.

  43. Mich says

    @Nobody,

    It's extremely difficult for police to assess whether they were dealing with a child with a toy gun or something different when the course of action they choose is to roar up within feet and begin shooting before the doors are open all the way (which is exactly what happened). But, that's what happens when an officer released by the city of Independence for being "too immature" and an abysmal shot is shuffled off to another department in the city instead of being relieved of his duties.

  44. Sami says

    I have a theory about policing, and where it's gone wrong in the modern age.

    "Police" comes from the same root word as "polite". Both derive from "polis", as in city – politeness is the way that civilised people behave in the city, and the polis-man is the man of the city. And it used to be that policemen were, as a rule, required to be polite to the populace – address everyone as "sir" and "ma'am", regardless of how much they might not want to. That sort of thing.

    I think letting that go is part of what's gone wrong. It's difficult to think "sir" and "worthless" at the same time. Police have a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. The requirement to behave in a manner that is, just slightly, deferential to the citizenry is something I believe helps keep the "responsibility" as much a part of the police mindset as the "power".

    I also think aggressive policing is a horrible misapplication of Broken Windows Theory, but the point about the normalisation of police brutality and outright murder is extremely valid.

  45. Nobody says

    > So… How are people to defend themselves? Who's going to take the guns away from these killers?

    *checks story* Don't attack the cops is a good start. Do you honestly expect cops to be able to ask every hostile fleeing suspect to quietly surrender? I'd like to see you, personally, perform their job.

  46. Robert C. J. Parry says

    I've followed and covered law enforcement issues for 20+ years, been on dozens of ride-a-longs with numerous agencies and written on the topic for several reasonably major publications.

    I think there is definitely something to be said regarding the attitude of acceptance of excessive force. I've seen some extremely unprofessional things on the street, some of which were tolerated and others that were not (and some which I reported my self).

    But if anyone here is serious about it, the first thing to do is address it in its proper context. If you want to solve a behavior problem, the most effective way is to address the motivators underlying the behavior.

    And this post is a premium example of doing the exact opposite.

    Tamir Rice was not "executed as casually" as in Grant Theft Auto. He was killed because a rookie cop panicked — a cop who was absolutely terrified, as you can see in the video with the way he stumbles to cover behind the patrol car. A rookie cop who probably should never have been hired, given his flameout in a small PD. But, I suspect most cops would have come very close to doing the same thing if their partner was reckless and negligent enough to put them in such a tactically ridiculous position. A casual executor does not in any way regret his actions. On the contrary, it's a point of pride. That rookie, and I suspect his partner (though that may be wrong), will regret that moment for the rest of their lives, even if they were returned to duty.

    You can say 500-1000 "COMPLETELY INNOCENT" people are killed. Or you can be honest about things. Tamir Rice violated Ohio's brandishing law by pointing that toy at people. If he doesn't do that, the cops are never called. If he puts his hands up as that patrol car comes barreling toward him, instead of grabbing for his pockets (he knew he had a gun), he's not shot. He didn't deserve to or need to die. But every decision he made meant a positive outcome was someone else's responsibility.

    You can dismiss the idea that airsoft guns are dangerous without proper markings. But then you really make the standard for a cop to defend himself that the suspect has to shoot first. And, if you do, then you truly don't care if cops die, and, thankfully, you'll lose that argument in politics every time. So, ask yourself, aside from "because I want to" why does someone need a toy that looks exactly like a lethal weapon? If you're so bothered by the killing of innocents, why do you so badly want people to precisely mimick the instruments of such bothersomeness?

    You can criticize loosey laws all you want (and I do), but if you think the cops should have let Eric Gardner go, then please tell me what other crimes they should take it upon themselves to ignore. I think the cop should have been indicted, but I also think he likely would have been acquitted. Gardner clearly resisted arrest. If you think that's OK, then there's no point in having cops for anything.

    You can mock all you want the LA County Deputies who shot the victim in the hostage situation, but I'm willing to bet none of you has ever made any such decision. How long do you wait to shoot someone who looks very much like the suspect whom you've been told is stabbing people and who appears to be continuing to assault a horribly bloodied victim? How many extra stabs does he get if you can't see the blade in the dark? That entire encounter took longer than you took to read that sentence. Too quick? Perhaps. But You can bet Ken White would be the first ranting about "lazy cops who stood by while someone got stabbed repeatedly," and demanding they be fired for inaction. So which risk do you prefer? Cops who take action and occasionally get one wrong, or cops who are afraid to take action because if they get it wrong, their lives are over? Ignore the lazy and the callous. I'm talking about good people honestly trying to do the right thing. Do you really want to ruin their careers because they F'd up in a gawd awful situation that took seconds? Or are you so perfect in what you do that you just can't imagine anyone being imperfect in any situation?

    You can criticize the NYPD's marksmanship all you want in the Empire Building case. But, if you've ever actually tried to do it, hitting a man-size target at 20 feet is challenging, even when you know it will happen in the next few minutes. Those cops barely had time to focus. Its very tough if he's moving. It's ridiculously tough if you are moving (I know, you all saw different in the movies). Teach them to hold fire when a guy who just committed a murder points a gun at them? Who's gonna sign up for that job? Train them better? Great!!! They'll need to spend about a day per week on the range to maintain that level of zero-defect proficiency, Plus probably 100-150 rounds. So that's roughly $2,000 per cop in ammunition, plus increasing the size of the force by 20% so someone is on patrol while everybody else is training. Oh — the best part: What do you think is the instinct of a cop who shoots on an extremely frequent basis? What's his instinctive reaction to trouble? So when do you accept imperfect (but not negligent or callous) marksmanship? What's the standard for acceptably imperfect? I'd like to think they can do better than 0-for-16. But do you really want to jail a cop who misses when somebody points a gun at him? Or do you just want him to follow at a great distance and cuff the guy when he's done killing people?

    I think there are a variety of things that can be done. Adding more reserve officers to policing I think could be very impactful. The more community presence there is in briefing rooms and locker rooms, the less badge-heavy thugs will be tolerated. Also, the more people know cops because they are their co-workers and fellow church-goers, the more people will understand policing.

    Such an effort would also create a perfect opportunity for guys like Ken to get out there and bet their lives on philosophies they are incensed idiot cops don't follow. In fact, Ken could go be a reserve cop right now. Who's life is he jeopardizing by letting some Rambo in blue respond to calls when he could do it so much better?

    It would also help to try to see things from the other side. Go on ride-a-longs. Many of them. See how different cops and agencies approach things. See what it is like to respond to an "unknown trouble, lady screaming" call.

    Cops get called to thousands of horrible things every day. Beatings, stabbings, shootings, robberies, thefts, etc. The fact is, a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of those calls end in any force whatsoever. That alone speaks to officers' restraint. On very rare occasions, they make a bad situation worse.

    When you want to address those situations as being (generally) well-intended acts by (generally) well-intended people that had imperfect execution with unpleasant or horrid results, then perhaps there can be a consensus to solve them. But if you want to declare that every cop who shoots someone in error is an executioner or a murderer, then you will lose any hope of getting widespread support of law enforcement, because most cops I know will tell you a bad situation could happen to them in the wrong circumstances.

    Start dealing with these things honestly and without grossly inflammatory rhetoric and you'll find a lot of cops support you. (I've been told flat out "A few of these 'furtive movement' shootings are probably bad, but who's to say which ones"). But don't expect them to join your protest over a ridiculous situation like the Chicago case if they think you will turn on them when they act with a perfectly pure heart and perfectly pure intentions but imperfect information.

    And, seriously, if you think you can do it so much better, go become a reserve cop.

  47. WaveyDavey says

    I think an appropriate, sensible, and apposite article to read is this, by Charles Stross, on the difference between British and American policing, and Peelian principles.

    Article

  48. Katherine/Kat Anon says

    I think that a growing number of people would agree with you, Ken, but its not enough to know that there is a problem. We need to know why. Why are cops breaking windows? Are these isolated incidents, or is it going on basically everywhere? Either way, how long has it been going on? Or have things always been this way but Main Stream America only recently started to have a problem with it?

    You can't begin to solve a problem until you have all the variables.

  49. Levi says

    @ CSP

    To your first point, I have to agree. I had only stuck "now" in there as a counterpoint to the quote from Kaley and Gerstein about the GJ's "historical role of protecting individuals from unjust prosecution". Whether they ever performed this role effectively is of course up for debate.

    To your second point, that may be the case now but in 99.99% of GJ proceedings there would not be this much evidence on display. These are points that are more appropriate to hash out at trial. I think the Gardner case is a better example since it unpacks all of the he-said she-said in the Brown case, but virtually every link in the OP illustrates the problem.

    On a completely separate note, this thread is much more entertaining if you pretend the OP doesn't exist and everyone commenting/agreeing with Ken is responding to "WHAT THE FUCK?"

  50. Tom Howe says

    This Air Force colonel's son was shot in the head under a street light with his hands cuffed behind his back, in front of five eyewitnesses. He decided to do something about it. There is progress in Wisconsin.

  51. Dragoness Eclectic says

    @CSP Schofield: the "if blacks had upward mobility, government wouldn't oppress them" theory completely ignores the long history this nation's government has of plundering the wealth of black Americans and deliberately blocking or crushing any attempts at upward mobility. Pop over to The Atlantic and read Ta-Nehesi Coates very informative posts (nicely summed up in "The Case for Reparations", if you don't want to go on an archive binge). For a snapshot out of history, read up on the 1921 Tulsa riots, the worst in U.S. history, where "the Black Wall Street" neighborhood of upwardly-mobile black Americans was systematically burned to the ground.

    You are blaming the victims for being oppressed. Please stop.

  52. Babs says

    Hear, hear, Mich. @Nobody (aka Cop Apologist, Facts Be Damned), are you seriously saying that deadly force is the only possible way for cops to do their jobs? That crime cannot be controlled by anything but mowing down any person who might possibly have ever committed a petty offense, or indeed might in the future? That is a particularly disturbing view of humanity. But then, I guess one has to actually have some in order to see it in others.

  53. Mich says

    @Nobody,

    Your argumentative style leaves a lot to be desired. All generalizations and dismissals, no substance. To claim that the solution is "well just don't attack police officers" assumes, once again, that victims of police violence MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING to provoke the overwhelmingly deadly response they got. Once again taking the onus and responsibility away from the police and continuing to defend them at all costs.

  54. Mich says

    @Chris Gerrib, absolutely. I have police officers in my family and listening to some of them talk shop is a study in terror. The mentality is that any citizen should immediately obey any order they give at any moment (no matter if they can hear or understand it or not), and once they've decided to make an arrest they will keep escalating the violence level until they "get the job done." They talk about non-police as if we're all potential criminals, not actual human beings with those pesky things called "rights."

  55. Docrailgun says

    If you are a trained police officer and cannot disable someone with one or two shots, you are doing something wrong.

    In any case, Chris Rock had a good point 9n an interview lately: it's pointless to talk about "black progress" in race relations, because that suggests that blacks were somehow doing something to deserve their treatment. He said "white people were crazy and now they're less crazy". Being a white person, I agree. Institutional racism comes from the people running the institutions, and that's us.
    It's white folk that need to change, not the scary brown people.

  56. sorrykb says

    @Docrailgun: I agree with your other points, but as for

    If you are a trained police officer and cannot disable someone with one or two shots, you are doing something wrong.

    You shouldn't fire a gun at anyone without the expectation that you are going to kill them. (For that matter, you shouldn't aim a gun at anything you're not prepared to destroy.)

    The problem isn't that police are shooting to kill. The problem is that they're shooting (and using other deadly force) far too often.

  57. Matt W says

    The problem isn't that police are shooting to kill. The problem is that they're shooting (and using other deadly force) far too often.

    Especially telling since police in Great Britain seem to have little trouble keeping order in a country of 60 million people. In 2011/2 there were a total of 5 (five) (V) (101) (*****) police actions in GB that involved discharge of a firearm. And this number is wholly consistent with policing in GB. Apparently it is possible to keep the peace without shooting people.

  58. Sporaderic says

    Dragoness Eclectic:

    [This] theory completely ignores the long history this nation's government has of plundering the wealth of black Americans and deliberately blocking or crushing any attempts at upward mobility.

    Docrailgun's Chris Rock quote:

    it's pointless to talk about "black progress" in race relations, because that suggests that blacks were somehow doing something to deserve their treatment.

    Gotta hand it to Chris Rock. Tons of arguments are being made that if everyone had a fair shot at "upward mobility," we wouldn't be experiencing the problems currently being discussed. There's a weird implication here: if we can eliminate the racial disparity in our economic hierarchy, then only the people who truly deserve to fail will be on the bottom rung, regardless of race… and it's fine & dandy to kill them off. Since social ranking is a relative scale, there will always be a lowest caste. There will always be a group that "gets what's commin' to 'em." (Yes, this is a What The Fuck digression. Sorry 'bout that.)

  59. Kyle says

    I'm not against the 2nd Amendment, I'm also a pretty virulent critic of what I see as a burgeoning police state. But, I do think that the number of guns available in this country (100's of millions) definitely plays a role in the number of shootings here. Still, their violence and corruption must be reined in.

  60. Stevie says

    I don't think that it's possible to change this without removing guns from citizens, including the police. I live in England, where we have rare cases of the police shooting people; they are rare because the vast majority of the police do not have guns, just as the vast majority of people do not have guns. Indeed, the mandatory sentence for possessing a hand gun without a license is 5 years in jail; about the only argument that most people have with that is that 5 years is too short.

    You are trying to find some way of circumventing this without admitting that the Constitutionally derived gun laws are the problem; I can certainly understand why you want to do that. Patriotism is wonderful etc. etc. etc. and you are certainly patriotic.

    But there comes a point where people are dying because principles laid out some centuries ago to deal with a war of indepence, which no longer exists, are now used to excuse people from murder charges. And, to be brutally honest, you write a lot about freedom of speech but you don't mention the fact that dead people can't speak, due to the fact they are dead.

    You can't have it both ways; I have a high regard for the amount of effort you put into explaining the way the law works in the US, and the way in which you and others will work pro bono for those threatened by the powerful. Indeed, in the exceedingly improbable event of someone desperately needing pro bono advice on the Double Taxation Agreement between the US and the UK, and the US/UK taxation treatment of financial instruments, I would be happy to step forward; after all, the going rate for that sort of advice is way beyond that any normal human being could afford. But I can't change the fact that the ability to easily kill people is built into your country's Constitution; that is why so many people are killed.

    Whilst what is usually described as violent crime has diminished in the US the suicide rate has gone through the roof, and guns are the primary weapon of suicide; Switzerland has reduced it by reducing access to guns in their militia, but I see no signs of anyone in the US understanding that. So, 'Broken Windows Theory' is just another way of avoiding the real problem; I really wish that there was a better way…

  61. says

    With a lbit of googling, it appears US Suicide Rates have been between 10-12 per 100k since the 70s (there was a period before that where it looks like it went upwards of 13 maybe). I think I found last year's rate at 12.5, which is above the millennial low of 10.1 or so (less than 25%) it's true. Rate changes for more specific demographics vary, of course. Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway have all had much higher rates than the US historically (only true for Norway since 1980). While some of those nations are on a decline (Japan is not), I think you've failed to establish a correlation between the 2nd Amendment and US Suicide Rates.

  62. CrimsonAvenger says

    @Stevie:
    The suicide rate has gone through the roof???

    Wherever did you get that idea? Suicide rates have been pretty much constant for 50 years.

    As to the whole guns thing, well, you need to get a Constitutional Amendment through Congress to take care of that "problem". And then you need 3/4 of the State legislatures to approve the Amendment.

    Good luck with that.

  63. luagha says

    To The Man In The Mask, who asks of Michael Brown: " So WHY would he do that? What's his motivation?"

    Michael Brown was high on marijuana.
    While Hollywood generally gives us the lazy stoner archetype, marijuana also causes anxiety, paranoia, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, lowered inhibitions, and loss of control. People under the influence of marijuana are prone to sudden attacks in unreasonable ways.

    A simple google search will take you to this information over and over. Today, my google search took me to:
    http://www.timberlineknolls.com/drug-addiction/marijuana/signs-effects
    http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/marijuana/identifying-abuse.html#weedeffectsmind

    You can't reason out Michael Brown's motivation because his motivation was unreasonable. He was not thinking clearly.

  64. bud says

    MItch…

    "ammosexuals"… that's a cute piece of snark… I'll bet you say "teabaggers" too, don't you?

    Why did the feds bail at the Bundy ranch? Not because they were surrounded by white guys, but because they were surrounded by HEAVILY ARMED white guys. Tactically, they were screwed… not just because of all those guys with AR15's, but the one's with scoped .338's with Barnes X's in them. Without calling in airstrikes there was no way they were getting out of there… literally. If there was a firefight, I they'd all wind up in body bags. Sure, lots of those old white guys wouldn't be making it either, but the OWG knew that, the feds knew that they knew that, and that's a powerful incentive to not stir up shit.

    Guys open carrying are trying to foment shit, but they don't want to get shot, so they aren't waving the muzzle around, and when the cops roll up and yell "hands on your head", they do it. The cops know that there is probably 2 or 3 cameras on them, so they aren't going to shoot immediately. It's political theater and the cops know it. Rollup on a black kid waving a pistol around? How many black kids in that neighborhood have been shot… by other black kids? There may well be an element of racism in it, but there's also a lot of empirical knowlege to justify at least some of it. The cops that shot the kid screwed up big time even before the shot was fired. You don't drive across the lawn to pull up right next to someone with a gun, you stop out on the street and keep the car between you. The cops going to claim that he "feared for his life" when, in fact, his own incompetance is what put him in that situation.

    You seem to asking for the same "solution" that Chicago(?) schools came up with to even out the differential between black and white suspension rates: suspend white kids on a whim, and "review" the hell out of any case where a black kid is involved.

  65. babaganusz says

    Train them better? Great!!! They'll need to spend about a day per week on the range to maintain that level of zero-defect proficiency, Plus probably 100-150 rounds. So that's roughly $2,000 per cop in ammunition, plus increasing the size of the force by 20% so someone is on patrol while everybody else is training.

    you might be surprised how quickly virtual reality pays for itself.

  66. Robert What? says

    Just wondering: has the caliber of people going into police work changed? Is it attracting a more aggressively antisocial type of person? One thing that seems to be apparent: "officer safety" of any real or imagined threat no matter how trivial, seems to have trumped all other considerations.

  67. Robert C. J. Parry says

    Most large departments I know of do use simulators of different types. They are helpful for decision making, but not much good for marksmanship.

  68. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @ Stevie;

    There is an argument for much stronger gun control measures than are currently in place outside of a few states like New York. But the Second Amendment is pretty clear, between what it actually says, and what we know about the debates on the Bill of Rights. There really is no room for any honest historical scholar to say that the amendment was not written to ensure that military grade personal arms would be available to the citizenry.

    And this is a problem, because by and large the political forces that have been pushing for stronger gun control was in America have been scrambling to avoid confronting the Constitutional issue for as long as I have been paying any attention to politics. They are, for the most part, simply unwilling to put forward a proposed Amendment to the Constitution that would make gun control efforts constitutional. And as scary as the idea of some of the knuckle-draggers I see 'round about having M-16s may be, the idea that the government is not restricted by its own laws is one hell of a lot scarier.

    So I say to the gun control advocates; 'You want to restrict gun ownership? Then moot a Constitutional Amendment, or I have no interest in even talking to you."

    An armed populace may be, probably is, a dangerous thing. An unfettered State is hell on earth.

  69. babaganusz says

    Most large departments I know of do use simulators of different types. They are helpful for decision making, but not much good for marksmanship.

    indeed, i wasn't thinking quite of immediate returns, just working from the notion that this is tech that continues to improve. are these departments dealing with defense contractors? only assuming that's back to being the cutting edge…

  70. Mikee says

    RE: Robert Apologist Parry

    "You can say 500-1000 "COMPLETELY INNOCENT" people are killed. Or you can be honest about things."

    You have evidence that the claim made by the Mint Press News, Washington Post, LA Times, and the rest of the media is incorrectly reporting that figure? Please, provide it, because so far you've only provided your opinion as to why that figure isn't right, and you know what they say about opinions, right? They're like assholes, everyone has one, and they all stink.

    So please, provide some evidence to counter that report, otherwise, you're just talking through what you're sitting on.

  71. Robert C. J. Parry says

    So, Mikee The Fact Manufacturer: Here's what the MintNews article you linked says:

    Though the U.S. government does not have a database collecting information about the total number of police involved shootings each year, it’s estimated that between 500 and 1,000 Americans are killed by police officers each year. Since 9/11, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by U.S. police officers, which is almost equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers who have been killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

    It doesn't use the word innocent, never mind "COMPLETELY INNOCENT." So, there's that in my favor.

    Going further into what you said, the "MintNews" article cited as an authoritative source a Wikipedia entry listing killings by police in the US. Um, OK. So, I picked a random month of a random year, June of 2012:

    There are 61 people killed by police listed that month.
    – 11 of them shot at police officers, killing one and wounding two (not that you care)
    – 10 of them pointed guns at officers
    – 4 were killed while holding people hostage (including a family and an emergency room staff)
    – 9 Had knives, scissors or machetes they attacked or threatened the officer with
    – 6 were in physical fights with officers, including one who was attempting to disarm the officer.
    – 3 had blunt force objects they made threats with
    – 2 dropped guns during altercations with cops
    – 5 tried to run a police officer over with a car (or, in one case, a semi truck)
    – 1 had a toy gun
    – 4 were killed in hostage rescues or at the end of a standoff for another crime

    That's 55 out of the 61 who did something violent or threatened it.

    – 1 clearly stated the deceased was unarmed
    – Several had no clear statement about suspects weapons.

    Among those were:
    – 4 wanted for murder
    – 11 wanted for attempted murder of a police officer
    – 9 wanted for attempted murder of another person
    – 6 wanted for making threats of murder or violence
    – 5 wanted for kidnapping
    – 3 wanted for robbery
    – 7 who fled officers on foot and/or in a vehicle (a couple of were wanted for other crimes listed)
    – 3 wanted for auto theft
    – 3 wanted for burglary or theft
    – 2 involved in domestic disputes (details not clear)
    – 2 drunk in public

    Of those 61, there were 55 clear crimes (a couple are duplicated, e.g. shot at cops after killing someone). So there goes your "COMPLETELY INNOCENT!!!1!!1!"

    – 13 were mentally ill, including 5 who were reported suicidal

    – 3 do not include a description of why officers made contact.

    – 1 who was the victim of a false report of a car jacking by a jilted lover and made a "furtive movement" when confronted by officers. He was the only one I would deem clearly "COMPLETELY INNOCENT."

    That's an anti-cop Wikipedia page. It's just one month, but 61 in a month folds with the 500-1000 a year number.

    So, no, there aren't 1000 completely innocent people killed by the police every year. I would caution you not to cite any data source that uses ANSWER as a reference. Pretty much ever. Especially dealing with policing issues.

  72. rk57957 says

    @Robert C. J. Parry,

    Do you really want to ruin their careers because they F'd up in a gawd awful situation that took seconds? Or are you so perfect in what you do that you just can't imagine anyone being imperfect in any situation?

    To answer your question yes, I think that we should ruin the career of someone who F'd up in a gawd awful situation that took seconds and killed someone. Having a ruined career is small recompense for screwing up and killing someone.

  73. Myk says

    @Robert Parry – if an individual applies for, then completes the requisite training involved in becoming, a specialist in responding to "gawd-awful" situations, then screwing up in such a situation is justification to terminate their employment in that role. These people are not drafted or coerced into becoming Cops; they chose that career, received specialist training and understood the requirements of the role before being unleashed on the populace.

    If they are then unable to make accurate assessments rapidly and under pressure, and make subsequent good decisions, then they are not suitable for the role – maybe a desk job or something might suit them better.

    Yes, it does create disincentives, but those that do apply and make it through training will be better equipped temperamentally for the task, and knowing that the wrong decision can have drastic consequences will reduce the reliance on the "shoot first, ask questions later" mindset.

    In my job, I know that screwing up has major implications, so I exercise due care and caution.

  74. Robert C. J. Parry says

    What about situations that defy the span of human control and knowledge?

    Your position creates a tremendous disincentive for swift, intuitive action.

    "Why didn't you shoot the man who was stabbing the victim?"
    "It was dark, I couldn't see a blade for certain."
    "But the victim cried out in agony."
    "I could not see a blade. I had no way to be 100% sure what was happening. Our department policy is not to shoot unless we know beyond any doubt that there is an immediate threat. It could have been dramatic horse play for all I knew. I'd only been on the scene for 8 seconds befo're the door opened and, as I said, it was dark."
    "But the victim died because of the final stab wound."
    "I complied with my department's policy"

  75. Mikee says

    @Robert Apologist Parry

    It didn't use the word innocent? Did you miss that word in the link itself?

    It doesn't cite Wikipedia as an authoritative source, it says, "Wikipedia also has a list of “justifiable homicides” in the U.S., which was created by documenting publicized deaths." Do you really think there's a claim of authority anywhere in that statement, or is just a statement of fact that Wikipedia has a list? If you're wearing a red shirt, and I say you're wearing a red shirt, I am not claiming any kind of authority or expertise, just making a statement of fact. Your bias is really starting to show.

    http://www.innocentdown.org/

    There's your COMPLETELY INNOCENT people that were murdered by police. The first one was a homeowner who happened to walk outside as the cops were on a manhunt, shot dead by trigger happy thugs that couldn't take A FEW SECONDS to determine their target first. Wanna wrap that one up in your latest example of a hypothetical cop not shooting a killer as he's in the process of killing someone?

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/08/youre-nine-times-likely-killed-police-officer-terrorist.html

    How about that article using the CDC and DoJ numbers as examples? Like say, in 2011 the 17 Americans worldwide that were killed by terrorists, compared to the 155 Americans that were killed by police officers. Eight times as likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist, and look at what we're doing worldwide to stop terrorism, and compare that to what we're doing about the unnecessary and needless death at the hands of law enforcement.

    You're more than free to ignore the facts and continue to play the role of apologist for murderers, this comment section probably wouldn't be quite so sadly hilarious if you stopped. If enhancing oversight and penalties for law enforcement officers that murder citizens creates a disincentive for certain people to join the police force, then I'd say we're one step closer to fixing a serious problem in America. The fewer trigger happy thugs we have running around with near blanket immunity for their actions, the fewer needless death we will see in this country.

    And seriously, you're complaining about a group that chose their acronym based on the name 'Act Now to Stop War and End Racism'? Once again, your bias comes reeking out of your words like a moldy cheese after just being opened, and because of that obvious and disgusting bias, this is my last reply to you. Have a nice day, pig. :)

  76. says

    What about situations that defy the span of human control and knowledge?

    Do you mean, e.g., opening the Ark of the Covenant? Trying to attach the hand of Vecna? Careful use of Sticks into Snakes?

  77. JonRob says

    The broken windows

    Vaguely written laws and ordinances, in combination with officer training focused on controlling the scene and preemptive action, has turned every encounter with the poor and, far less frequently, lower-middle class into an investigation to determine what crime with which they can be charged. Officers are also taught that inquiries and the exercise of rights are suspicious and evasive behavior.

    Failure to comply with this sort of exploratory conversation is treated as equivalent to obstructing an officer while investigating a crime (because that is what the officer was doing, even if there was no reasonable suspicion of a crime articulated by the officer to begin an official investigation before or during the course of the conversation) and will result in your arrest for the crime of obstructing the investigation to determine what crime for which you can be arrested. Any resistance or perceived non-compliance will be met with more force until you have been subdued, be it in handcuffs or a body bag. Any use of force will be the sole responsibility of the one being arrested, who bears the cost of damages or injuries inflicted upon the officers and their equipment.

    Once charged with a crime, the accused will be locked up in a holding facility (and then placed among the general population of the local jail) until trial; unless they can afford to make bail, upon which they will regain their right to move (somewhat) freely until the date and time of the trial. If the charges are dropped or you prevail at court, you will get your bail back. Any attempt to be compensated for the negative effects being charged with a crime or spending time in a holding/jail cell had on your life, however, will be costly and time-consuming with little chance for success.

    At trial, the police have many ways to stymie your efforts, including: Planting/altering/destroying evidence, threatening witnesses into changing/withdrawing testimony, corroboration of/or failure to report the wrongdoing of fellow officers, and misrepresentation of the facts or outright lying in their own reports/statements. Officers have intimate knowledge of how laws can be twisted to portray anyone as guilty and have developed these techniques in order to perform the job without getting caught in their own trap. These things will not necessarily happen at every trial, but the questionable nature of the charges and the shady process by which they were brought may be indicative of looser standards and amoral practices.

    Not speaking to cops, other than to state that you do not talk to cops or provide identification during an official investigation, or declining your consent to any action that would violate your rights while not actively preventing said action; may get you the best results from any interaction with the police, but will not prevent them from arresting/assaulting you if they have already decided that they will do so. This is a very narrow path surrounded by landmines. One miss-step will result in dire consequences. Understandably, not everyone is amenable to jumping through such difficult hoops for so little benefit.

    Back enough animals into a corner and you will soon get bit. It's not really about race or money, but control. Having control over something or someone allows you to live your life more easily. Not having control makes nearly everything more difficult. Money is the means by which we achieve control over our lives and environs. Race is just one aspect of life that some people want control over.

    How do we fix the windows?

    Some people get a kick out of voting; I get a kick out of people voting. I may be jaded from the conga line of misbehaving civic leaders that gets reported on so often, but if you want to pass or be exempted from a law or ordnance it seems that money makes things happen while voters get the dog and pony show. This leaves the lower-income classes with no recourse but to rely on sympathetic members of the wealthier classes to look out for their best interests. While nice to have people willing to fight for you, it is frustrating to not be able to fight for one's self. If the poor can't fight for their own rights, then it is really just a dispute among their controllers arguing over what method of treatment is acceptable. Resenting those with greater control over your life than you yourself have is natural and motivation to gain more control or challenge the control others possess.

    I lean towards the removal of firearms from beat cops with a specially trained unit that can respond to situations requiring them. Sadly, the special units they already have for extreme situations are being used for mundane purposes with increasing frequency in order to justify no only their existence, but also their expansion. It is madness that an officer with very little training, oversight, or responsibility for the result should be allowed to dole out deadly force on a whim. It is utter lunacy to think that a police unit would have any reason to use an armored personnel carrier. The removal of firearms may also go some distance towards dispelling the cops and robbers mentality displayed by actors on both sides.

    IANAL and this is just my perception of the way things are.

  78. CrimsonAvenger says

    @Robert C.J. Perry:

    The situation you describe is one where any sane firearms training course would tell you "DON'T SHOOT". If you can't clearly distinguish between assailant and assailted, you have no business opening fire.
    For that matter, in a physical strugle involving moving people, shooting is strongly contraindicated.

  79. Robert C. J. Parry says

    Crimson: There's no perfect answer. If you want a zero defect system, then you'd better write one heck of a good regulation that has all the right answers.

    Having been in my share of gun fights, I'd prefer to bet my life on the instincts and observations of a well meaning professional on the scene, rather than some bureaucrats and lawyers asleep in their comfy beds while I get shanked because a cop was only 95% certain of the circumstances.

    If the cop is right 90% of the time with 95% information and you stop him from acting, I submit that makes the situation worse 90% of the time.

    That's not an improvement. But it would be zero defects.

  80. sinij says

    @Robert C. J. Parry

    Very interesting numbers. According to these numbers we have yet another manufactured 'epidemic'.

    Sure, police abuse happens, but it is rarely, if ever results in a death. Therefore, war on drugs and civil forfeiture are much more fruitful lines of inquires into police abuse topic.

  81. rk57957 says

    You don't see that creating any disincentives?

    @Robert C. J. Parry, yes they are called consequences; consequences give disincentives all sorts of behavior.

  82. NeedleFactory says

    As I recall, one police excuse was that Eric Garner was in poor health, that's why he died.
    But what about "you take your victim as you find him?"

  83. Robert C. J. Parry says

    Well, Mikee, I guess that makes you an apologist for every rapist, robber and murderer who gets killed — including the cop killers (but I sense that's a badge of pride for you). Anyhoo, I've never denied cops kill innocents. Sometimes in horriffic accidents (hostage situations) and sometimes in ridiculous negligence (the Pink Houses fiasco, for which the cop should be fired and probably jailed). But your 1000 per year figure is absolute fiction.

  84. JonRob says

    @Robert C. J. Perry
    Some questions I have regarding your comments here:

    Did you really fault a 12-year old for his own death at the hands of a cop, simply because he did not know to show his submission to the police in the prescribed manner while playing with his toys?

    Do you realize that while the first two hostages were shot for making a mad dash to "safety", the actual hostage taker was merely arrested when they found him choking and tearing at the third hostage? How was the first situation deserving of deadly force while the second was not?

    A man-sized target at 20 feet is pretty big and not all that difficult to hit when you observe proper gun handling and don't freak out as if you were sick when they taught that course. The minimum requirements for a cop to pass firearms training is a joke.

    What do you mean when you say "zero defects"? I haven't heard anyone argue that cops should be capable of taking the perfect action with perfect precision. Just that they should be trained to better deal with what, for them, is a likely situation to occur and then held accountable for the actions they take. Everyone else has to pay for their mistakes, why not cops?

    Why should there not be disincentives for shooting blind?

    What good behavior is hindered when cops are expected to ascertain the situation and be held accountable when they use deadly force without the presence of a real and known threat or one that could be avoided through alternative means?

    If it defies the span of human control and knowledge, then exactly what is a human cop going to do about it? And why would god send an angel to earth just to stab someone anyhow?

    How can a cop be 95% certain that someone is about to be shanked? That seems a rather binary situation to me. The shank would be a rather obvious clue.

    What do you mean when you say you have been in "your share" of "gun fights"? Please let it be that you just participate in your local civil war reenactments and not a police officer.

    Could you please turn down the hyperbole? My take of what you are writing is that bad actions by bad cops should be tolerated because "good" cops might hesitate before taking actions that resemble what the bad cops do and they'll all feel bad about it afterwards, anyhow. Is this accurate or have I taken you too literally?

  85. John says

    Yes, who the hell are these morons on these grand juries who continuously let these criminal cops off the hook?

  86. Robert C. J. Parry says

    JonRob:

    To quickly and basically address your questions, I believe "bad" things happen in police work for 3 root reasons: 1) Bad intent. This is usually criminal and should be dealt with accordingly. 2) Bad technique, either by laziness, bone headedness or inadequate training. The remedy depends on the extent and the result. 3) Bad information (whether imperfect or erroneous). Some things are a result of 2 & 3, for example, officer takes a tactically unsafe position and then has to defend himself when subject quickly draws what looks like a gun.

    If you want to demand that police act only when they have full knowledge of a situation, (and you don't want them to die too, and, frankly I think a lot of commenters here don't really care), then you will fundamentally alter the way they approach their work. Cops almost always go into situations without good information. And much of the way they deal with the public is shaped by the fact that they can defend themselves if they believe they are threatened. Change that to "if they absolutely are" threatened, then everything becomes a detailed, ultra-safe tactical plan.

    And, in answer to your question, I've served three tours in the Middle East as an infantryman. What's your experience?

  87. JonRob says

    @Robert C. J. Parry
    Ok. So you do think that cops should do their jobs the way newbs play Call of Duty. You admit that bad things happen and why, on which we are in agreement, yet you say it is an acceptable risk if an officer has a chance at killing someone all the bad guys. Do you also advocate for marshal law so we can operate under something more like the ROE used in Afghanistan?

    I say again:
    I haven't heard anyone argue that cops should be capable of taking the perfect action with perfect precision. Just that they should be trained to better deal with what, for them, is a likely situation to occur and then held accountable for the actions they take. Everyone else has to pay for their mistakes, why not cops?

    My experience is living life in the poorer neighborhoods and getting to watch the same tragedies play out again and again. I've known how to properly handle and operate firearms since I was five. I also happen to know someone that spent several years in jail before being released without ever being tried or convicted because "someone reported suspicious activity" and he had a criminal background. He will never get those years back or forget the things that happened in there.

    The system is broken, of course things will have to change before it can get better.

  88. says

    Three tours in the Middle East are not equivalent to a nation's police force policing it's own citizens. Frankly, they're not even close to the same thing.

  89. Robert C. J. Parry says

    JonRob: Read Ken's post. These aren't mistakes of perception committed by good people in bad situations, they are executions and murders committed by trigger happy thugs. Every one of them should be fired if not jailed.

    More training and increased hiring standards would probably help. They will also be very expensive. How do you attract really smart guys to a job in which assault is a constant threat, disrespect from the Ken's of the world is in your face every day, and you get the bonus of searching homeless people and junkies. Plus, if you make an honest mistake when you think you are saving someone's life (or your own)….you go to jail.

    That's an expensive acquisition.

    More training is also more money. As is paying to backfill the positions while they are at training.

    More cops would also be effective. If Darren Wilson is in a 2 man car, Michael Brown is probably alive. If additional deputies arrive quickly at the hostage call, one can bring a bean bag gun.

    The reserve officer idea helps, but certainly is not a perfect solution. If you think you know a better way, go sign up and do it.

    The bottom line, however, is that posts like Ken's make matters worst. The way to attract better people to police work is not to make clear you want them jailed for honest mistakes. All of these disincentives and consequences are disincentives for people with better options to take a cop job at all.

    That defeats the purpose.

  90. Eric says

    @Robert C. J. Parry

    in 2013, German police officers shot 28 people, 8 of them fatally. None of the victims where innocent bystanders. This is for a country of ~80 million inhabitants. Is the U.S. really that much more dangerous than Germany ? Or could it be that there is something seriously wrong with the training, tactics, and above all, attitude, of U.S. law enforcement ?

  91. Robert C. J. Parry says

    I dunno. There were roughly 10x more violent crimes in Germany than the U.S.

    How many German cops were killed in 2013? Or is their safety irrelevant?

  92. AlphaCentauri says

    Anyone with kids knows that behavior that gets attention gets repeated. I don't believe we've considered that effect persists with adults.

    While the cops that kill people do face consequences, they also get a shit-ton of support from other cops, from racists, and from random tough-on-crime enthusiasts. No one is fundraising to provide legal defense for every non-cop accused of a crime he didn't commit, even those who turn out to have been no where near the area of the crime. But cops have people coming out of the woodwork to support them when they screw up, and their unions make sure that there aren't even administrative consequences.

    The media also makes a big deal about cops who shoot genuinely dangerous bad guys, whether on the news or in dramas. They are treated as heroes.

    Maybe there should be more systematic attention for cops who handle potentially dangerous situations without violence. Yeah, they're just doing their fucking jobs, but they're human beings, and appreciation does mean something. It creates a human connection between cops and other citizens.

    A naked mentally ill guy with a shotgun was taken into custody near my office despite being so violent he kicked out the windows of the squad car. No one was shot. And there was no mention on the news. That was some damn fine police work, and it should have been recognized. Maybe we'd see more cops act that way, and maybe we'd attract better recruits, if we publicized good police work.

  93. Bruce says

    "There were roughly 10x more violent crimes in Germany than the U.S."
    – gunna need a cite for that. I can't find anything that matches that. Not even a per capita where the number was about 280 per 100k for Germany vs 400 for the US.

  94. Robert C. J. Parry says

    I stand corrected. Misread a 9 as a 0. It's only about 6x in raw numbers (1.16 million US vs, 197k Germany), or 160% greater per capita (~370-390 per 100,000 in the US vs 240 in Germany).

    "◾In 2013, an estimated 1,163,146 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 4.4 percent from the 2012 estimate" – Federal Bureau of Investigations.
    Bruce:

    ◾There were an estimated 367.9 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, a rate that declined 5.1 percent when compared with the 2012 estimated rate. (See Tables 1 and 1A.)
    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/violent-crime/violent-crime-topic-page/violentcrimemain_final

    "In 2011, violent crime affected an estimated 0.39 percent of the U.S. population and an estimated 0.24 percent of Germany’s population"
    https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=13732

    And, answering my own question, very roughly, it appears there have been 500 German cops killed since the 1940s. Approximately 100 of them killed by offenders, if Google Translate is right. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.welt.de/welt_print/vermischtes/article8020781/Ein-Denkmal-fuer-gefallene-Polizisten.html&prev=search
    "Since the end of the war were in NRW more than 100 police officers offenders and 400 killed in occupational accidents. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://www.polizei-nrw.de/artikel__85.html&prev=search

    So, that's about 1.5 per year killed by a suspect.

    In the US, there have been 43 shot to death this year alone. And, that's counting beatings, vehicle assaults, etc. http://www.odmp.org/search?cause=Gunfire&from=2014&to=2014&o=25

    So perhaps Germany to the US is an apples and oranges comparison.

    It's worth noting that a number of articles I found emphasize that German police fire a lot of warning shots. In the Southern California (I can't speak to the rest of the US), that would get an officer severely reprimanded, if not fired. Letting rounds fly into the sky is a great way to get totally innocent people killed.

  95. dreampod says

    I couldn't find any numbers for 2013 but for 2012 there were 3 German police officers killed and 1762 officers seriously injured in total. By comparison in 2012 in the US, 48 police officers were murdered and 52,901 were assaulted (unfortunately no data on injuries to provide a truly useful comparison).

    In term of violent crime, Nationmaster (http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Germany/United-States/Crime) crime comparison has the US having 3x more violent crime in the closest categories up to 19x for the furthest.

    Overall, I think this suggests that Mr. Parry needs to cease speaking from his anal orfice.

  96. Nobody says

    > are you seriously saying that deadly force is the only possible way for cops to do their jobs?

    I'm seriously saying that when presented with a credible threat of deadly force, I don't expect them to just get shot. You, however, have the curious standard where it's okay to shoot cops, but not robbers. That leads me inevitably to certain uncharitable suspicions about what sort of conduct you personally engage in. I have withnessed hatred of cops as widespread in two populations: criminals and defense lawyers. Given the site, I'd rather believe you were one of the latter, but you're casting doubt upon that with your ignorance of the horribly unpleasant realities of policing.

  97. Nobody says

    I suppose I should respond to the "cop apologist" part as well. For one, an apologist is defined as one who defends something with reason, though I've seen few who actually know the original definition at this point in time. Secondly, I'm not unreservedly on the side of the cops every time. I scoff at "resisting arrest" charges when there was no evidence of a serious escape attempt and nobody was injured but the suspect. I have severe reservations about the "chokehold" case, where the cop in question appears to have a history of this sort of thing and where chokeholds were banned (for good reason, I might add).

    But on the other hand, I have a lot of questions about people whose "chosen vehicle" for protest of such abuses is a felon fleeing from the scene of a crime or a mentally deranged person waving a gun (even an air gun) at Wal-Mart and refusing to disarm, particularly so when their chosen means of protest is violent rioting.

    This is particularly sad when what I understand (most) of Trayvon's family pushing for–cop cams–is something I think we should have implemented a very long time ago. I'd go one further and require, absolutely, that all questioning of suspects also should be on camera, especially if they've waived their right to the presence of an attorney for any reason whatsoever. I'd even go so far as to say that any time where, through accident or malice, the video is unavailable at trial, all evidence derived from it ought to be excluded. And I certainly think they ought to keep better track of abuse of force claims and investigate the individuals for whom that appears to be an issue. Cops have no business picking fights, only ending them.

    And for whatever it's worth, I don't automatically believe cops or suspects. It's not even hard to find cases where one or the other has lied, though I think I would find more criminal liars than criminal cops. I believe we've had a rather major newspaper retraction recently that shows what happens when you're credulous to expect any group of people to always tell the truth. But that's why we have grand juries and rules of evidence, so that emotional mobs don't go around dispensing justice, but rather neutral parties. And the grand jury verdicts were no surprise to me at all, having heard the number of people who flat-out lied in their testimony. I remain dismayed that the newspapers have scarcely even attempted to cover this, but I blame the effect where stories are rated by the number of clicks they generate first and all else second… or less.

  98. JonRob says

    @AlphaCentauri
    Good point. Unfortunately, sugar sells and bad actors are the finest honey to a reporter. I do enjoy seeing the occasional social media post lauding good cops doing good jobs.

    @Robert C. J. Parry
    You've deflected all my questions except to lament how hard it is to change and state your military combat experience in a discussion of civilian policing practices. Your officer safety mantra sounds not unlike the politicians cry of "for the children!" Nothing more than an attempt to make people seeking informed opinions and debate look like they don't care.

    Again, no one here has stated that they want good cops to be jailed or die. It's just like any other job; employees that quit or don't apply because they are expected to be courteous to the customer and disciplined for infractions were probably not inclined to be good employees in the first place and won't be missed by those that perform their jobs well.

    Bad employees drive out the good people because they don't want to have anyone that might report them and be held accountable. That's the main purpose behind the thin blue line and police unions. I applaud anyone that manages to overcome them.

    It seems that Omerta is preventing you from debating honestly, so I'll stop here.

  99. Eric says

    According to the statistics of the German ministry of the interior, in 2013 two police officers where murdered, with 106 cases of attempted murder. There where 1621 cases of grievous bodily harm, and 2094 attempts at same. If we assume that the number of police officers murdered on duty correlates to the acceptable number of people killed by police (which is insane, but bear with me), U.S. police is still 2.5-5 times over quota.

  100. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @JonRob:
    I said:

    Having been in my share of gun fights, I'd prefer to bet my life on the instincts and observations of a well meaning professional on the scene, rather than some bureaucrats and lawyers asleep in their comfy beds while I get shanked because a cop was only 95% certain of the circumstances.

    You asked:

    What do you mean when you say you have been in "your share" of "gun fights"? Please let it be that you just participate in your local civil war reenactments and not a police officer.

    I stated my experience in gun fights. It's irrelevant to 99% of civilian policing. Its completely relevant to the dynamics of use-of-force and the capabilities and limitations of weapons (e.g. shooting a moving man-size target at 20 feet while you are also moving and it is engaging you back).

    No one here has stated they want good cops to be jailed or die…they just want massive consequences for good cops who make mistakes in extreme situations. It's akin to saying jurors who find an innocent man guilty should themselves be jailed for kidnapping. They want to dis-incentivize police from using force, as though 43 cops shot to death this year isn't enough. When you hear the refrain "well, they volunteered for the job" that's code for "not my problem if they die."

    If you go back and read my original comment on this thread, you will note that everything I said is about setting the conditions for creating change.

    Start dealing with these things honestly and without grossly inflammatory rhetoric and you'll find a lot of cops support you. (I've been told flat out "A few of these 'furtive movement' shootings are probably bad, but who's to say which ones").

    Calling a cop who shoots a kid who pulls a replica gun a "casual executioner" is exactly not the way to go about it. Arguing the German cops only shoot a fraction of the number that American cops kill, while not noting that German cops face a tiny fraction of the likelihood of death that American cops do reflects (at best) an unwillingness to address all aspects of the issue, and (at worst) a callous disregard for their well being.

    If you actually want to reduce police use of force, start by understanding use-of-force. You an be like Ken, and dismiss anyone who doesn't despise cops as a "badge licker" or you can go out and see first hand what police work is like. Even better, go do some of it yourself. https://ricochet.com/post-ferguson-bridging-gap-protector-protected/

    And, again, had you bothered to read my original post, you would see I state plainly that I've seen bad cops do bad things.

    I will close with this:

    – The average voter is vastly more likely to (and vastly more concerned about) being robbed or killed by a thief than negligently killed by a cop.
    – The vast majority of people negligently killed by cops get themselves in the situation of police contact and are generally not sympathetic characters to voters.
    – Politicians go to cop funerals and get police union money.

    Thus, the odds of creating change are against you. If you want to make change, I suggest starting by dealing with the facts of these matters and the tipping points at which use of force decisions are made in the context of human behavior. The more folks like Ken call cops "casual executioners" the farther you are from progress.

  101. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @Bruce and @DreamPod, somewhere in the comments approval queue is an admission of error on my 10x number. I misread 197,000 crimes as 107,000. Apologies.

  102. dreampod says

    I think that the risks to police are in part caused by the approach of police responding situations with deadly force as a first option rather than attempting to de-escalate first. In my country there is widespread access to long-guns and fairly regular instances of angry, foolish, or unstable armed individuals taking hostages or threatening people who are arrested by police without shots being fired. This is because they know that if they start shooting that the police will shoot back BUT if they don't then the police aren't going to shoot them unless they are about to imminently harm someone. These guys recognize (even in their distorted thinking) that escalating the situation is not going to do them any good and it just takes a fair bit of time for the police to wear them down into recognizing their own best interest. In a country like the US however when the police will start shooting with little to no provocation there is very little incentive for a guy who has gotten way over his head into a stupid and criminal situation not to go out shooting because he is likely to be shot, beaten, and otherwise injured or killed even if he attempts to surrender. At this point it would be hard for police to alter the dynamic they've created by starting to be less trigger happy since the response is now deeply ingrained and the criminals have no way of trusting that the police they are dealing with are operating under the gentler approach.

  103. Zem says

    Dare I say it? Take everyones guns away. Turn "shoot first,as questions later" into "ask questions".

  104. Jenny says

    Take cover! Gun debate hook!

    Quick, let's burn six hundred comments screaming the same tripe at each other that everyone's heard for ten years!

    Or – you know – actually talk about police training, culture, Use of Force doctrine, and discerning justified shoots from unaccountable abuse of authority.

  105. James says

    WHAT THE FUCK?

    I'm sorry you had to be introduced you your readership.

    For everyone who says race doesn't matter, please realize that if you are against police brutality,people who are working against racism in policing are your natural allies. Unless you care more about *how* and *why* police brutality goes down than you do that it *does* go down, you should stop picking fights.

    I suspect, however, that many people who take the line of 'race doesn't matter' don't actually care much about police brutality, and care a lot more about uppity… um… I guess I can't say that.

  106. Zem says

    Or – you know – actually talk about police training, culture, Use of Force doctrine, and discerning justified shoots from unaccountable abuse of authority.

    You know, actually having a first aid kit, knowing how to treat emergency burns, know how to dial emergency services, teach your children about house hold dangers. All of that yes, but first don't have that boiling kettle on the edge of the bench.

  107. Trent says

    Robert you've built so many strawmen in this thread it would be funny if the topic wasn't so deadly serious. Police work is NOT "a job in which assault is a constant threat". It's not even in the top 10 most dangerous and if they ranked higher than 10 I would wager it's not even in the top 20, I wouldn't be at all surprised if plumbers were more likely to be killed on the job. A police officer is far far more likely to die in a car accident than to be killed by a suspect. That is just one of the many ridiculous things you've said in this thread.

    I work in a profession that's state licensed. To become licensed I was required to have certain education and experience and pass objective testing along with multiple professional references (from professionals with direct knowledge of my work, these recommendations were also confidential, I was not allowed to even handle them) that I was capable and responsible enough to hold this license. I'm responsible for actions I take and even legal action (such as a criminal conviction) which is completely unrelated to my profession could see my license revoked and my career ended (at the total discretion of the licensing board).

    Why are you arguing that police work, where the officer is representing the state and can take actions to end someones life should be held to a standard of "mistakes happen"? I simply don't understand your blatant disregard for the responsibility officers have.

    I'm not saying that a tragic set of circumstances where fast action and poor choices should result in jail time in every possible circumstance. But when a police officer fires his weapons or anyone dies or is injured a panel (preferably non-LEO/prosecutor experts with no connection) should be convened and an objective review should be made, and if a mistake or error in judgement was made the officer should be punished. And if that mistake involved death, injury or even abuse of rights an officers career should be over. If the officer was negligent he should be charged just like any other civilian. If I was negligent and I caused the death of someone I would be sent to jail and police should be held to the same standard.

    It is beyond foolish to hold cops to less of a standard than your average licensed profession. They should be held to a higher standard, not the least of which because they have the ability to use deadly force in the name of the state. Unfortunately we've given police in the US the power without any of the responsibility.

  108. Robert C. J. Parry says

    Trent:

    Using Dreampod's figures, there were 52000 assaults on police officers in 2012. If 1000 a week doesn't represent a constant threat, what does?

    The question comes down to what you consider to be negligence. If you don't want officers to act on sincere beliefs or their best intution in extremely time constrained conditions with uncertain information (if you will fire or jail them for being wrong), then be prepared for them to sit back and ascertain all the facts and take numerous additional steps for their own safety. If someone gets stabbed or strangled while they do that, I guess you are OK with it.

    I think what you don't understand is that for every time a cop acts under such circumstances and it turns out badly, more often it turns out with no innocents hurt.

    I don't disagree that force should be reviewed. If you've read my full comments, you will note that I said the Garner case should have resulted in an indictment. But if you think every use of force should go to trial, then you are creating yet another disincentive for initiative and action. If you want purely reactive cops who put risk mitigation above all else, well, I think the general public will disagree.

  109. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Zem;

    Take everybody's guns away? Well, you'll need to pass a Constitutional Amendment AND come up with a process whereby everyone, the State and all foreign interlopers included, will be disarmed. Or I, for one, will decline to participate.

    And I don't even own any guns. Imagine how much trouble the people who DO will give you.

  110. George William Herbert says

    Parry;

    One, on statistics, 52,000 assaults on officers (out of about 800,000 officers) is about a 1/16 chance of an assault during any given year. Assaults with injuries (let's say these equal the UCR "aggrivated assault") according to the LEO foundations appear to be about 15,000 (2013), or about 1.8% annual risk.

    The general population assault risk is that about 806k happened in 2009; if we subtract 15k estimated assaults on police then that's about 790,000 on everyone else. US population in 2009 was 305 million, so .25%.

    So, police are somewhat more likely to be assaulted than the general population, but not ten times more. About seven times more.

    Two, on use of force situation judgement etc, the entire point here is whether people who are not faced with imminent threat to their own life end up using lethal force or not, intentionally or not.

    Having seen the video of the kid with toy gun shooting, this is one where I feel for the officer that fired. His partner, driving, made a horrendous mistake and took them right in next to the kid who they thought from the radio report had a real gun. They should have been 50 yards away. Whoever decided to get that close in the car before getting out, it was idiotic. Under any situation that isn't a clear unarmed hands-up suspect, the pressure to shoot at a perceived threat already only a few feet away is immense. I don't know anyone who's an armed professional or civilian trained for concealed carry who would be unlikely to shoot at that range and level of surprise. The professionalism there is in not getting into that situation in the first place.

    They acted more like they were responding to an active shooter situation (like a school or workplace shooting) rather than a mere brandished gun. And even with an active shooter, that would have been an idiotic approach (an actual active shooter would have ventilated the officer in the passenger seat through the windshield and side window before he had a chance to get out of the car).

    The Garner video, force used was proportional to a violent criminal who was actively fighting back, not someone who just objected to being cuffed without trying or threatening to assault officers. It was disproportionate and unreasonable, even excluding the whole illegal chokehold thing, even assuming the cigarettes thing was reasonable for them to arrest on. They used excessive force to affect the arrest, even excluding the chokehold.

    Brown, assuming for the moment the officer was assaulted in his car as or muchly as he said (he's being either honest as he recalls or not grossly fabricating anything). He shot the person who punched and attacked him, they retreated. He's been hit in the head. Backup is on the way. His tactical decision to pursue on foot rather than wait for help to contain the situation then caused the second confrontation to be one where he would have no choice to escalate to another shooting.

    It is not reasonable, responsible, or professional for someone who is armed to provoke fights in civilian settings. Even if someone else started something. Exceptions for hostage rescues aside, if you go in provocatively and aggressively it sets things up to escalate much faster than not.

    You also see this idiocy in a lot of police responses to protests. Most actual riots (as opposed to mild vandalism) are provoked by police reactions rather than the crowd.

    We are paying for the police, and we as a civil society are setting the limits we want them to act in. I want rules that police can be effective, and clearly can defend themselves from real attack, but that in situations where they have any choice they are required to try and reasonably avoid using lethal force or escalating a situation. And hold them accountable for that.

    Garner's arrest was an unreasonable escalation, the officer following Wilson set up the him-or-me scenario that ended it, and the driver of the car with the kid with the fake gun should never have put himself and his partner into shoot-or-die distance to the person they thought had a gun.

  111. mcinsand says

    DonM touched on speeding, and this is a great rebuttal to the window theory. When I took the CDL test way back when, our state manual recommended that, if the pack is speeding, you need to be speeding to for safety's sake (within reason). Speeding was recognized as effectively standard highway practice in official license study manuals. On any given noncongested highway, going 5-10 MPH over the posted speed limit is the norm. Those that go only the speed limit create congestion and the risk of an accident increases with vehicle speed differences. If the broken window theory held any validity at all, then our roads should have become demolition derbies long ago, and we probably would not have much of a population over 18 left.

  112. C. S. P. Schofield says

    mcinsand,

    this touches on one of the aspects of the surveillance society that I haven't seen discussed much; If we are going to have automated penalties (like red light cameras and speed cameras) then the politicians can no longer appease one group by (say) putting up an unreasonably low speed limit, in the knowledge that the larger group affected by that will seldom get punished for ignoring it.

    I mean, how many 20 mph and 25 mph speed limit signs do you see, along commuter routs, that are completely out of line with the speeds people are actually traveling? I see LOTS.

    The government has passed a lot of laws and regulations based on the premise that they will seldom actually be enforced. Now, as cameras and recording devices multiply, we will find out just how much of the avalanche of law that gets passes we can actually live with.

    We really need to hold the politicians' feet to the fire on this; they voted for these stupid laws. They, in many cases, WROTE them. Now, they are going to have to start legislating as if what they pass will actually get enforced, and possibly terminally piss off voters.

    I suspect that it isn't that cops are acting a lot worse than they ever did. It's that the bad apples are getting exposed. It used to be that if the police shut up about their bad brethren, that was their best case scenario. Now, they have to face the fact that every time some sonofabitch shady officer pulls some outrageous crap there's a good chance it's going to wind up on youtube. Now, their best strategy is to seriously self-enforce. you really, REALLY don't want to be the police chief of a cop caught on camera shooting some kid because he got hit with a snowball (that hasn't happened yet that I know of, but it's clearly on the way). Hell, you don't want to be on the sane force with that idiot, because come a serious riot, you'll be in a war some because Jones didn't get ratted out to IA the first time he went off on a citizen.

  113. Daniel says

    While at an intellectual level I like how Ken Turns the table, artfully, I think it misses a key point. Namely, the burden of proof. If in standard Broken Windows Theory a person is innocent beyond a reasonable doubt then in Police Misconduct Window Theory a cop is innocent innocent beyond a reasonable doubt (the double innocent being on purpose). The reason why this is so is obvious. The police are trained professionals who often are required to put themselves into situations fraught with danger for the protection of everyone. If the ordinary citizen gets the benefit of the doubt, why shouldn't the police doubly get the benefit of the doubt? We often talk about police misconduct but much of this misconduct stems from mistakes made in the fog of war. It's easy to pick about this behavior in the clear light of hindsight but most of us were not and will never be Johnny-on-the-spot having to make split second decisions about life or death. In the end, if we cannot trust the people in blue–the ones with the special task of enforcing the law–then we can trust no one. This doesn't mean a police officer should never be punished–it does mean that we should be reluctant to do so and require a much higher burden of proof. When one looks at how often cops get let off by both juries and prosecutors this higher burden of proof is manifestly real, even if it is not supposed to be true in a narrow legal sense.

  114. George William Herbert says

    Daniel – alternatively, the police are trained and equipped far better than normal people are, and we should have every expectation that they are on the average at least as good at dealing with a problem as normal people are. Sure, there are additional stresses, but anyone who can't handle those with the training and equipment shouldn't be in the job.

    Airline pilots, doctors, combat soldiers, etc. are held to HIGHER standards. Why not police?

    The particular circumstance that does change this is arrests – Police do have to try and effect arrests of people who don't want to be arrested at times, and some will violently respond. I think the question there is whether the arrest force was disproportionate to the resistance. A nonviolent guy subject to arrest saying "aww, man, stop hassling me" should maybe be grabbed by both arms, but not jumped on with a choke hold and forced to the ground by five police. If objections escalate to taking swings or such, you may need more force, but don't jump directly to it.

  115. En Passant says

    Daniel December 9, 2014 at 7:55 pm:

    We often talk about police misconduct but much of this misconduct stems from mistakes made in the fog of war.

    What war? Who declared it? Upon whom?

  116. Peter B says

    The paradigmatic broken windows crime was fare jumping. When the cops arrested fare jumpers, they caught a lot of wanted criminals.

    Was arresting Eric Garner really comparable? His arrest was part of a campaign called for by Gov. Cuomo back in March to crack down on cigarette trafficking (and lost revenues from people evading the massive NY taxes on cigarettes.) Trafficking like, say, Eric Garner selling loosies. In front of a store selling cigarettes it may even have paid the taxes on. So you're a cop on the street. You've got a merchant complaint. You've got pressure from the top to get after illegal cigarette sales. You've got a lifelong petty (and sometimes not so petty) criminal who is resisting arrest. You've got a sergeant standing there supervising. And you've got a poor schnook who's a heart attack waiting to happen, but who is still really big and really strong. This guy squatted over 200 lb multiple times a day just getting out of chairs. He says he's not going to be arrested. Given the obesity, probably at risk if Tasered. Now what?

    Still, this isn't really the same as an armed raid on the wrong house. Of course, we don't know how often that happens, because while the Feds carefully keep close tabs on the number of law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty, they carefully don't track civilian deaths at the hands of police. Funny how that works.

    Maybe there's a sort of Laffer curve of policing: Without cops, you get crime; too much government and too many penny ante laws, and you've criminalized everybody.

    From there, it's not too much of a stretch to those SWAT raids.

  117. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @En Passant:

    Daniel is making the same point I've been making. There are three types of "bad" policing. Bad intent, bad technique and bad information. "Fog of war" is the last. Get off the high horse about the word "war" and accept that people try to kills cops literally every day in this country. That's combat. Cops go into violent situations every day. When chairs or fists or bullets are flying, it doesn't matter if its at 300 meters in Afghanistan or 3 feet in a courtyard in West Hollywood – it's a form of combat. Confusion reigns and it is damned difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. And, every fight a cop is in has to be considered a fight for a gun — like this guy found out http://www.odmp.org/officer/22056-police-officer-david-w-smith

    The more people treat situations like Tamir Rice (a combination of bad tactics and bad information) like Abner Louima (perhaps the worst kind of bad intent), the more you will force people who care about cops into the same unified corner.

    If you force change that does not recognize that there is a fog of war, that information in policing is rarely perfect until after the fact, that cops often have to go with their gut instincts, then you will force them to act only in the slowest, most careful, most tactically and informationally perfect way possible. Yes, there will be fewer mistakes. Yes, less force will be used against people who have done nothing wrong or those who are resisting minimally. But, you will also reduce the number of times force is used against the truly violent, because they will be long gone or their victims long dead by the time the cops arrive.

    Believe it or not, just as planes land safely thousands of times every day, cops do great things for people every day, often with great courage and personal risk.

    That's not to say there's no room for improvement. The Tamir Rice incident makes that clear. But the question is, do we even care what to fix? All the cops I know are completely disgusted by that incident, not because the rookie shot the poor kid as he pulled the gun but because his training officer/driver was stunningly reckless and put that rookie and the kid in a hyper-dangerous situation. Had that kid been a killer, both of those cops would have been dead before the door opened because of his horrendous tactics, a situation which only made the shooting more inevitable. But instead of looking to professionals for insight, people like Ken call the rookie a "casual executioner." Thus anyone who cares if cops go home at the end of their shifts tunes out and no consensus for improvement ever develops.

  118. Eric says

    @Parry

    If you force change that does not recognize that there is a fog of war, that information in policing is rarely perfect until after the fact, that cops often have to go with their gut instincts, then you will force them to act only in the slowest, most careful, most tactically and informationally perfect way possible. Yes, there will be fewer mistakes. Yes, less force will be used against people who have done nothing wrong or those who are resisting minimally. But, you will also reduce the number of times force is used against the truly violent, because they will be long gone or their victims long dead by the time the cops arrive.

    That information in policing is rarely perfect until after the fact is precisely the reason I would like cops to act in the "slowest, most careful, most tactically and informationally perfect way" possible. Less people get hurt that way.

    Believe it or not, just as planes land safely thousands of times every day, cops do great things for people every day, often with great courage and personal risk.

    Yes they do. But when they don't, they almost never get called to account for it (which was Ken's original point, in case we've all forgotten by now).

    That's not to say there's no room for improvement. The Tamir Rice incident makes that clear. But the question is, do we even care what to fix? All the cops I know are completely disgusted by that incident, not because the rookie shot the poor kid as he pulled the gun but because his training officer/driver was stunningly reckless and put that rookie and the kid in a hyper-dangerous situation. Had that kid been a killer, both of those cops would have been dead before the door opened because of his horrendous tactics, a situation which only made the shooting more inevitable.

    "Had that kid been a killer" ? Really ? In what world do you live where it is reasonable to assume that a random 12 year old kid is a killer ? If the shooting was justified, why did the cops lie and claim that they told the boy to drop the weapon, when in reality they opened fire more or less immediately ? And frankly, that all the cops you know are disgusted that a training officer put his trainee in danger, not that a 12 year old boy was killed because of recklessness perhaps explains the fundamental problem – cops seem to think that their own personal safety is the only thing that matters. If you think like that, you have absolutely no business being a law enforcement officer and should get a nice safe desk job instead.

  119. says

    Statistically speaking, I would say that people do not in fact try to kill cops every day in this country. There is nothing in modern policing of the United States of America that is like combat, and any claim to the contrary is worse than hyperbole.

  120. whheydt says

    This is only peripherally related to the thread…

    For those that have heard about the Monday night blocking of an Amtrak train in Berkeley… I was on the train behind the one that was blocked. The blocked one was for the "Capitol Corridor" line, which is subsidized by the State of California but operated by Amtrak. (I will let those with actual legal knowledge let the rest of us know what level of laws might come into play.) The train behind that one was the "Coast Starlight: (Train 14), which runs from Los Angeles to Seattle. We were scheduled to depart from the Oakland station (near Jack London Square, for those familiar with the area) at 9:30 PM. Our actual departure was at 2:30 AM, so a five hour delay. There was supposed to be a train crew change in Sacramento at midnight. The attendant for the car I was in expressed concern that they might have a "dead crew", which is a train crew that has hit the legal shift time limit. In that case, they would have to arrange to have a replacement crew brought to the train…from Sacramento in this case, about a 2-2.5 hour drive. I don't know if that happened (I forgot to ask him).

    The upshot of all that was that I got off at my stop in Martinez at 4 AM instead of near the scheduled time of 10:45 PM.

  121. Peter B says

    "Had that kid been a killer" ? Really ? In what world do you live where it is reasonable to assume that a random 12 year old kid is a killer ?

    A random 12 year old with what looks like a real gun because somebody took off the orange piece that's supposed to help a cop tell a real gun from a toy. And what world? Maybe one in which teenagers are assassins in the USA and a neighboring country or one in which terrorists are being trained on US soil, or in which teenagers are assigned by criminal organizations to hold guns since if caught their sentences will be lighter.
    Does all that make it "reasonable to assume?" No. Somebody living a quotidian middle class non-first responder life isn't likely to have any of that affect him or her… until it does. Such a person is much more likely to be able to survive a life lived in Col. Jeff Cooper's "condition white" (relaxed and unaware of what is going on around you.) A life as a cop lived in condition white is likely to be short.

    So reasonable to assume? No. Foolish to assume otherwise? Absolutely.

  122. Resolute says

    @Eric

    "Had that kid been a killer" ? Really ? In what world do you live where it is reasonable to assume that a random 12 year old kid is a killer ? If the shooting was justified, why did the cops lie and claim that they told the boy to drop the weapon, when in reality they opened fire more or less immediately ? And frankly, that all the cops you know are disgusted that a training officer put his trainee in danger, not that a 12 year old boy was killed because of recklessness perhaps explains the fundamental problem – cops seem to think that their own personal safety is the only thing that matters. If you think like that, you have absolutely no business being a law enforcement officer and should get a nice safe desk job instead.

    My understanding of this situation is that the cops didn't know they were looking for a 12-year-old boy. The stories I have read says dispatcher sort of failed to relay both that the 911 caller indicated it was a juvenile, and that it was probably a fake gun. Of course, even in the two seconds between seeing Rice and shooting him, they should have realized "hey, this is a kid…" That being said, you missed Parry's point entirely. He didn't say that the shooting was justified. What he did say was that the cops on the ground used extremely poor tactics (added on top of the poor information) that pretty much guaranteed someone was going to get hurt/killed. If the 'suspect' they were tracking was a real killer, or had a real gun, the people that could have been shot/killed would have been the cops themselves, largely through their own incompetence. Instead, a child is dead, through their own incompetence. Along with that of their force and the dispatcher.

  123. Eric says

    @Resolute

    The way I understood him, Parry's point was that the driver of the car (who should have known better) placed himself and his partner in a very poor tactical situation, but once they where in this position the subsequent shooting was justified because if Tamar Rice had been armed with a real gun, he could have killed both officers easily. I disagree. In my opinion, this was criminally negligent manslaughter.

    And frankly, apart from anything else, if two grown men cannot handle a 12 year old without killing him (even if the gun where real), what the fuck are they doing on the police force ?

  124. Mcb says

    Mr. Parry,

    Why is it only police officers whose shoes you need to walk a mile in before you can judge them? I'd find you more compelling if you were equally concerned about understanding the background stories for criminal defendants. But you aren't.

    The criminal justice system treats defendants as presumed guilty, and provides all the process needed to incarcerate more people than almost any society in history (I think Stalinist Russia still edges us out). Unless those people are the people who run the system. In that case we need to be oh so careful to understand things from their perspective.

    Why shouldn't police officers be interrogated right after shooting someone with typical aggressive tactics just like everyone else?

  125. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @ Eric: One error in my assessment: It's not a matter of "if he had been armed with a real gun" but rather that he was drawing it. No reason to shoot if he doesn't touch it, but, sadly, he did.

    You don't think a 12 year old with a real pistol could kill a cop at close range? How many free shots does he get before a cop can protect himself, or do kids get a free pass?

    @Mcb: I never said police shouldn't be questioned. They should. But the fact that they are expected to respond to a situation (not walk away and leave it to others) and the fact that they have a duty to overcome threats and resistance should play into judgments about their actions. I think grand jury review of shootings is a good idea.

    I concur that a suspect's history should be taken into account, especially at sentencing. What that has to do with the thread, beats me.

    But people (as evidenced by this thread) making broad, damning judgments about gravely important decisions that are made in the vaguest of circumstances with previous little time. I don't really think most have any idea what it is they are condemning.

  126. Robert C. J. Parry says

    Yes, but in use of force, cops are not regular people, legally speaking. They are legally compelled to overcome resistance. So the validity of their justification is vital to questions of probable cause. Absent it, a true bill is guaranteed (which I think most commenters here want).

  127. JonRob says

    I wonder how swatting factors into this. The exploitation of a reputation for the police employing excessive and overwhelming force has become a popular method of instilling terror in the victims. Would that count as two broken windows?

  128. Dan Weber says

    I actually like the point that, since cops are expected to not run away, we shouldn't always ask "what would a normal person get charged with?" Cops are going to be in this position a lot more than normal people, just like ER doctors are going to lose more people on the table than I ever do, because I'm not a doctor. NB: this doesn't mean "infinite discretion." This shouldn't excuse using your gun hand to open a door while your finger is on the trigger, or jumping out of a cop car to shoot someone who has a gun in an open-carry state, or chokeholding a guy who isn't attacking.

    I like the idea of turning over cop shootings to an outside agency, like state authorities, which may not cure the problem but at least removes the local conflict-of-interest. Whatever else, cops investigating themselves is bullshit.

  129. Mcb says

    Dan you are conflating charging someone with a different crime and using a different system. Even in complex cases a grand jury is generally just a rubber stamp.

  130. Robert C. J. Parry says

    McB: So is your position that more injustice would be a good thing?

    I mean, if all you want is to prosecute cops every time they shoot someone, regardless if the deceased was naked and asleep or cranking away with an AK47, then establishing probable cause that Officer Jones fired at Mr. Smith is sufficient.

    If you care about justice, well, that's another matter. And a big "If".

  131. George William Herbert says

    Perhaps the standard should be, if a reasonable person would have no choice but to conclude that the police officer had good cause to feel threatened with great harm or death, they should not be subject to sanctions. If there's a question it should go to a jury.

    Your driver drives right up next to someone that your dispatch said was threatening people with a gun, you see what appears to be a gun (is in fact shaped and colored exactly like one), the person starts to pull it out. Ok, bang, I can understand that. Based on what the officer knows there, anyone should conclude that the officer felt threatened. Two seconds is not in fact enough time to decipher the clues that it might not be a real threat, under that circumstance.

    Other officer's tactical negligence in driving right up may or may not be prosecutable but should disqualify them from further police work. If you either kill someone or get them killed in a negligent manner, you should not be a police officer anymore.

  132. Eric says

    @Parry

    Yes, a 12 year old could conceivably kill a police officer at close range, but I don't think he would pose anywhere near the threat an adult or even teen aged suspect would pose under the same situation. But that is not really the point. Had the officers taken the time to think about their approach before charging in like the cavalry, the situation would likely have ended with a stern talking to, not a dead kid. As such, the officers should bear the full responsibility for the outcome of the situation they created by their recklessness. I think a charge of criminally negligent manslaughter is fully justified. If such a charge prompts other cops to engage their brains before charging in guns blazing – mission accomplished.

  133. Matt W says

    Your driver drives right up next to someone that your dispatch said was threatening people with a gun, you see what appears to be a gun (is in fact shaped and colored exactly like one), the person starts to pull it out. Ok, bang, I can understand that.

    At what point does age become a mitigating factor: a four year old wanders out onto the street with her dad's gun in hand. Are police justified in rolling up and shooting her?

  134. George William Herbert says

    MattW:

    Age doesn't really mitigate threat that much, but makes "intends to use it against you" less likely.

    Four year old almost certainly doesn't mean to shoot you (but might anyways).

    Hopefully at 4, everybody involved will be entirely clear "This is a toddler" not "this might be an adult".

    12 is old enough that it may not be instantly (1 second) obvious.

    And, to answer the last part "Are police justified in rolling up and shooting her?" – you miss the point. No, the police weren't justified in rolling up and shooting the 12-year-old either. But there are at least three separate "police" involved in that. The dispatcher, who took the call and relayed it out on the radio (may be two people, one on the phone and one on the radio); the driver, who was apparently the senior training officer, and the rookie officer on the passenger side who found himself a few feet from someone drawing what looked like a gun from his waistband.

    Rookie was not driving and did not place himself in that situation – his driver placed him there.

    Training officer/driver did place both of them in that situation which was dangerous and reckless and led to the death.

    Dispatcher seems to have failed to relay on the "apparently a kid" and "looks like it might be a toy gun" parts. Which seems to have contributed to the situation, may or may not have been in compliance with agency standards for what to relay out on the radio and what not to. That choice seems to have affected the officers' responses. If the agency policy is not to include those details then that policy contributed to the situation and the department is liable. If it doesn't say to exclude them the dispatcher contributed to the situation.

  135. Eric says

    @George William Herbert

    I agree with your post except for the last part:

    Other officer's tactical negligence in driving right up may or may not be prosecutable but should disqualify them from further police work. If you either kill someone or get them killed in a negligent manner, you should not be a police officer anymore.

    In other jobs, if your gross negligence leads to death or serious injury you don't just loose your job, you are punished for that death or injury. Not following established procedure is generally taken as evidence of negligence. Why should police officers be treated differently ?

  136. George William Herbert says

    Eric:

    I don't know the Cleveland / Ohio statutes regarding manslaughter, gross negligence, normal negligence, etc.

    I also don't know that department's policy in particular. The "Don't drive right up next to armed suspects" may not be written policy, but any policy academy or training school should make it very clear.

    There is a difference between me concluding that's a remarkably bad thing and the officer shouldn't be anymore, and me publicly stating that it broke a law / should be prosecuted. I think you could in California, I have no idea in Ohio.

    There are moral, judgement, and legal conclusions; I think the first two are clear and the last depends on factors I just don't know well enough.

  137. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @MattW
    As I've said a dozen times, the tactic of driving right up on an armed individual of any age is horrendously negligent and unsafe for all concerned. That said, as the father of a nearly four-year-old child, I should hope the officer would take the extra risk of grabbing for the gun, realizing a near toddler would be a bad shot, have no intent and likely be incapable of operating it.

    @Eric, why do you think the ballistics of a gun are different if based on the age of the person who fires it?

    I note that you ascribe all of the decision making to both officers as a unit, unthinking cyborgs in blue, neither senior to the other. Does it strike you that perhaps the rookie was screaming to himself, "WTF is this guy doing?"

  138. albert says

    @C. S. P. Schoenfeld

    You said; "…If the version of events he described is roughly accurate, then he[Wilson] is legally not guilty..". IANAL, but legal guilt needs to be determined by a jury trial, not a grand jury, or a shooters "…version of events…". Since the prosecutor determines what evidence is presented to the grand jury, he can easily tilt the machine. The only thing about a jury trial in this case would be the prosecutors reluctance to pursue a conviction, which would be nice to see in public record, as well as the evidence against Wilson.
    .
    Do I think he would walk in a trial? Probably, but at least there would be a public record.
    .

  139. Rich Rostrom says

    The Broken Windows Theory led to an era of aggressive policing of petty offenses — which in turn led to increased confrontation between police and civilians.

    False premise. There is evidence that police indifference to petty crime and disorder increases aggressive criminal behavior, which leads to more confrontations with police. In New York, police shootings under Giuliani declined substantially from the level under previous mayor Dinkins.

    Maintenance of order requires the threat of force against disruptors of order. The more credible the threat, the less it has to be carried out. (Note: this applies to unjust as well as just orders. It also applies to non-violent disorders, such as securities fraud.)

    Visible failure to use force against disruptors undermines the credibility of the threat. "Broken Windows" argued that failure to enforce minor regulations was such a failure.

  140. Dan Weber says

    but legal guilt needs to be determined by a jury trial,

    You shouldn't go on trial "to find out if you did it." The point of a trial is because the state has already decided that the person is guilty, and is now going through the formal process of denying the defendant of his right to move around freely, by convincing a jury of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt within the structure of a courtroom.

  141. Eric says

    @Robert C. Parry

    As the pro-gun crowd likes to point out in discussions on gun control, a gun is just a tool. While the ballistics will not change depending on who is using it, the overall threat posed most surely does. For instance, I think it is safe to assume that I, who have never fired a gun in my life (I did shoot a BB rifle once), am much less of a threat with a gun than you are. A police officer can't be expected to know that, of course. But we are talking about a 12 year old here, not an adult or even a teenager.

    I do rather agree with you that of the two officers, the rookie bears less responsibility. If he was acting according to procedure, I could even entertain the idea that he is blameless, as he did not create the situation. But which of the two officers has how much responsibility for the outcome isn't what we have been arguing about, is it ? We are arguing if there is actually any responsibility at all. I am under the impression that you think neither of the officers should be held accountable for the death, that it was just one of those unfortunate accidents that we have to live with if we want the boys in blue to keep us safe.

  142. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @Eric:
    1) I've known 12 year olds who were taller than infantrymen I've served with. Not many, but enough. Looking at the video, I would say he was taller than the light bar on the patrol car, the officers look roughly the same height as him. I'd guess 5'2", maybe 5'5". That fact will come in the investigation, but I think it is likely the cop was looking up at him while pulling up and exiting the car as he reached under his jacket and pulled at a gun. He was reported by the dispatch as a man with a gun, not a kid. So when do you bet your life the guy pulling the gun-looking thing out of his jacket is probably just a kid with a toy?

    2) I think if you read every comment I've made on this incident you will see the words negligence and/or reckless. The driver officer is not solely responsible for what happened. That poor kid's own stupidity and recklessness got the ball rolling (yes, it is an open carry state, no you cannot point guns at people, as he clearly did). But, no, the driver bears much of the responsibility for the outcome. And maybe the shooter too. It depends on what was said in the car as they pulled up.

  143. Robert C. J. Parry says

    That's an interesting idea. There is a term in law enforcement circles that is used to refer to some use of force incidents- "awful but lawful." Messy. Poor tactics. Avoidable. But legal.

    I suspect that is essentially what the result of these will often find, if the prosecution is handled separately. And I don't know that such a split finding will do anything to generate trust.

    I do think a grand jury that is conducted similar to the Fergsuon one….a hybrid of an investigative and criminal grand jury….. A body with authority to indict but also to explore and question evidence (and witnesses), that is tasked with reviewing all of the evidence (not just enough to indict a sandwich), could be of value — especially if it also held some administrative powers — could be a valuable. That also seems like a smaller, easier change.

  144. Eric says

    @Robert C. J. Parry

    Looking at the video, I would say he was taller than the light bar on the patrol car, the officers look roughly the same height as him.

    You are probably right. The only information I found on his size was "tall for his age".

    I think if you read every comment I've made on this incident you will see the words negligence and/or reckless. The driver officer is not solely responsible for what happened. That poor kid's own stupidity and recklessness got the ball rolling (yes, it is an open carry state, no you cannot point guns at people, as he clearly did). But, no, the driver bears much of the responsibility for the outcome. And maybe the shooter too. It depends on what was said in the car as they pulled up.

    Yes, in every comment you say the cops where reckless – in putting themselves needlessly in danger. I keep harping on this point because I think this is the root issue of the problem – police officers thinking the only thing that really matters is officer safety, and – to get back to Ken's original point – the general public backing them up on it (up until the point the person needlessly killed is someone they know).

  145. Robert C. J. Parry says

    Good Lord. I one time pointed out that the negligence endangered all concerned. That's how gun fights work – everybody is in danger. Tactics like stand-off distance make eveybody safer.

    If you don't think cops put themselves at risk, then I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps you should research Maslow's Higherarchy of Needs. Self preservation is pretty important to everyone. It's rather natural.

    Let me know when you've spent a couple of nights in a patrol car (front seat).

  146. Eric says

    If you don't think cops put themselves at risk, then I don't know what to tell you.

    Good thing that I don't think that, and have never said so.

    Perhaps you should research Maslow's Higherarchy of Needs. Self preservation is pretty important to everyone. It's rather natural.

    If the first thing that you do when faced with a potentially dangerous situation is to resort to lethal force, then you are unsuited to be a police officer.

    Let me know when you've spent a couple of nights in a patrol car (front seat).

    No can do. Policing is not a spectator sport in Germany.

  147. JonRob says

    Of course cops face risk more often than other citizens.
    Of course cops are expected to handle difficult situations and sometimes required to take drastic measures to resolve them.
    Of course cops have the right to defend themselves and others when attacked.

    Good cops will do everything they can to minimize the risks they face.
    Good cops will try to handle each situation with the minimum force necessary for it to be resolved.
    Good cops will fight for their safety and that of others.

    But not all cops are good cops. Just like not all citizens are good citizens.

    Bad cops will rush into situations without sufficient information or regard for their safety and that of others.
    Bad cops will use unnecesssary and excessive force without justification.
    Bad cops will threaten the safety of others for their personal gain.

    How are we to tell the good cops from the bad without transparency?
    How are we to deal with bad cops without pondering the how and why of what they do?
    How is it necessary to be a cop, or have spent many hours with one, before it is something on which you think we should have an opinion?

    I almost died in the wreck that killed my mom and brother. There is a week missing from my life and a hole that will never be filled.

    I've been in the same hold that was used on Eric Garner while being robbed. As everything went black I had just enough time to think that I was going to die and say silent goodbyes to my family. I was fortunate to live through that experience, but had difficulty swallowing for the next couple weeks. It isn't just an inability to breath that makes the hold so dangerous. The pressure applied also cut off the blood supply to my brain. Much longer and I could easily have been permanently damaged.

    You shouldn't have to have almost died to understand the value I hold for life.

    This is not a video game where you can just respawn whenever you like. A person's life is the most precious thing they can have. Truly, our time here is limited, and to cut that short is the greatest of tragedies and an act deserving of our attention.

  148. Mikee says

    RE: Rich Rostrom
    December 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    "In New York, police shootings under Giuliani declined substantially from the level under previous mayor Dinkins."

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

    I posted this in a comment above, but maybe you missed it. The actions of neither mayor had much to do with the decline in crime in New York City, because NYC wasn't special. After lead was outlawed crime dropped around the nation.

    As of 2013, homicide in NYC is at its lowest level since 1963, the first year reliable statistics were tracked. Does that mean Bloomberg really is the best mayor for NYC? Or can we accept that mayors and their dumb decisions had very little to do with crime rates?

    The only crime seeing any real increase in NYC is the shooting of civilians by law enforcement, everything else has been on a steady decline since the late 80's/early 90's for the entire country, not just NYC.
    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

  149. A.Nagy says

    Just to be clear here while the Chokehold was the violation it was not deterimined to be the primary cause it was the guy sitting on him in the position that he was. When someone is that fat you can't hold them down normally because well you can't breath properly in that position the stress of the situation combined with small amount of air he was able to get mostly from the sitting/position and lesser from the chokehold. I feel the style of the arrest was way over the line based off his non resistance, but however what if he was aggressivly resisting and dangerously so our cops would be justified in a more aggressive takedown; it still would of killed him unnessarily it shows a lack of training on taking down a large overweight suspect that is aggressivly resisting in a manner that would keep him restrainted and prevent them from suffering.

  150. Mich says

    To "bud" (really??), not that it especially matters at this point:

    As a matter of fact, I don't use "teabagger" because I don't care enough about the selfish meatsacks who identify with the Tea Party enough to insult them. It would be a waste of my God-given talent with the written word.

    Besides, I can't top Teahadist. Would love to claim that one.

  151. A.Nagy says

    Selfish meatsacks is about a million times more insulting because you are stating they are subhuman. In general while it is fun to call the other group some term when circlejerking with your friends, it has a negative effect over othering the other side and causes stronger this is my tribe and it's my job to hate your tribe which is deterimental to critical thinking.

  152. Dan says

    It seems to me that the entire debate going on here is somewhat peripheral to a bigger and somewhat more interesting question.

    What is a societies view of the role of the police and what is the institutional view of the role within the police of that society (And how well do they align)?

    It is interesting to note that UK & US views on the role of the police are actually very different (even, maybe especially, within the police forces).

    The UK perspective:
    The UK police I have spoken to about the 'firearms' issue generally take the view that the duties of a police officer are :
    1 – The protection of life.
    2 – The protection of property.
    3 – The prevention of crime.
    4 – Catching the buggers after the fact.
    In THAT Order, something the more rabid politicians sometimes forget.

    This is esentially a rephrasing of Peels principles on the subject, and it is difficult to see the place for a pistol in that list in that order.

    They point out that the cases where a pistol is actually useful are few and far between (Close up or the guy has a knife, that is what an extending batton is for, effective, no issues with stray fire, and much less likely to kill, and if it gets taken off you it is less of a critical issue).

    At any range, you are unlikely to hit with a pistol unless you burn a lot of ammunition on the range and misses become a hazard to everyone in the area, better if nobody feels pressured into opening fire.

    If the guy has a gun, the correct response per the UK police is to back off and call for the specialists (Including a negotiator, and a crew with a long gun) the ideal outcome is an arrest with no shooting (Even if it takes two days of talking), anybody dying is the worst possible outcome (It does happen occasionally and always makes the papers).

    The US seems to favour an approach which puts taking down the suspect far higher up the list of priorities, and much follows from that (The UK crowd are well known for breaking off a high speed persuit if it becomes excessively dangerous to either party or to bystanders, in fact some forces will not as a matter of policy chase stolen motorbikes (except by air) viewing the risks to the (typically, teenage) thief as being excessive, better to grab the little scroat when he gets home.

    The officer safety thing is also not pushed by anybody to the same extent over here, this is policing not say atlantic crab fishing or livestock farming (Both of which are really dangerous professions).

    Now for any debate on THIS subject as opposed to punishing the screwups (Yea we have had a few doozies as well) needs to ignore the outliers.

    It is possible to generalise an extreme lesson from Fergusson (Or say the London Riots), but it is seldom the right thing to do.

    Regards, Dan.

  153. Robert C. J. Parry says

    As it turns out, my guesstimate that Tami Rice was 5'2"-5'5" was off. He was actually 5'7", 175 pounds.

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-tamir-rice-autopsy-20141212-story.html

    That is 2" shorter and 20 pounds lighter than the average 20-year-old adult. I have several Soldiers in my unit are shorter than 5'5".

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements.htm

    The officers' statement that he was a 20-year-old male is far from absurd.

  154. Randomly Anonymous says

    I think I originally saw this idea on Popehat, but I think it could work, and provide a possible solution that helps improve a lot of the things the regular Popehat crowd takes issue with, while addressing a number of Robert C. J. Perry's complaints. I would like to note this is a general idea, and the details would need to be worked out, so don't claim that any specifics I propose make the core idea inherently bad. I'm not perfect, and I gladly appreciate any input from both sides.

    The idea is that ever police officer is required to have insurance. This insurance is provided by third-party agencies (not affiliated with any government). Police officers get a raise to cover the average premiums. If an officer is negligent (for whatever reason), then the insurance company pays out to the victim. The net effect is that this is like auto insurance. However, the insurance company is not required to cover someone. This means that the department can choose to hire an officer, even if the insurance company turns them down. In the case of an uninsured officer being found negligent, either the department needs to pay from their normal operating budget, or the officer needs to pay out-of-pocket.

    To go along with this, investigations into accusations of negligence would need to be more open. Both the insurance company and the department should have investigators (I suggest third-party from the department, merely because that reduces the appearance of bias). Since insurance companies try to avoid paying out (for obvious reasons), their investigation needs transparency.

    One of the benefits to the "good cops" is that their premiums would likely decrease over time, meaning they get an effective raise. The "bad cops" are going to see their effective pay decrease, because their premiums go up due to incidents, or they lose their insurance entirely. With a few different insurance companies, you might get different rates with different benefits.

    Yes, there are all sorts of problems with the implementation I've suggested, but there's no way this is a final idea. We all want to get rid of the bad cops. This seems like a way that would do so, impartially, while actually rewarding the good cops.

  155. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @Randomly:

    I've seen this idea before, but it only solves one part of the equation. Yes, it creates disincentives to bad behavior. But, it does nothing to address the fact that good police work generates risk.

    A great way for a cop to ensure he's never in a shooting is to never stop anyone. "That dude sure likes like the armed robbery suspect that was just broadcast. DEFINITELY not stopping him."

    There was a shooting in Pasadena, Ca a few years ago of a young man after an armed robbery call. He ran into an alley chased by two cops and they shot and killed him. He had no gun. The victim lied on the 911 call. Was it justified? The DA said so, but we know all the arguments on that.

    So, maybe those cops are too risky. But, the next 911 call might not be fake. That would be a bad assumption. So, do you follow the guy into the alley? If the suspect does something your heart tells you is dangerous and you take the wrong action you end up dead or you end up unemployed, if not broke. Why not just take the riskless approach and let him go? I mean, the point of the system is to eliminate risk, right?

    The vast majority of the cops I know have been sued. Even one who was demoted for laziness and unproductivity.

    I'm not sure how you increase the consequences of risky decisions without deterring people from entering risky scenarios. Which, if you want criminals to be arrested, is kinda the point of having cops.

    You could have a pre-set daily Safe Surrender Hour at every police station, so Ken's clients can turn themselves in after committing their offenses. That would reduce risk, too. I doubt it will reduce the need for patrol officers.

  156. Mich says

    @A.Nagy I believe my intentional irony and tongue-in-cheek went right over your head. Perhaps too subtle. I despise the Tea Party ideology with all my heart, but I still see Tea Partiers as human. Misguided, selfish, ignorant, hateful, but human nonetheless.

    I'm just disappointed that I even had to explain that.

  157. Robert C. J. Parry says

    "I despise the Tea Party ideology with all my heart."

    But they are the hateful ones. /irony

  158. Mich says

    robert parry, nice try. Hating an ideology is not even remotely like the people-focused hate of the Tea Party, who, for example, recently called for the lynching of a sitting President of the United States. A for effort, F for execution. Beter luck next time.

  159. Robert C. J. Parry says

    I missed that. Hmmmm. Was it a unanimous vote of the delegates? A majority of the registered members? Or a dictate of their duly-elected leader?

  160. Robert C. J. Parry says

    A question:

    AS I have repeatedly argued, the type of "bad" conduct by police officers that is toughest to resolve without extremely negative side effects is that of bad information — officers who act in sincere fear for their lives or those of others due to misinformation or missing information.

    Three cases come to mind in which bad information was injected into the matter. In the Kendrec McDade shooting in Pasadena and the John Crawford case in Ohio, the officers were responding to 911 calls about the suspects. In the McDade case the caller reported he was robbed at gun point. In actual fact he watched McDade and a friend take things form his cat from across a parking lot.

    In the Crawford case, the 911 caller said he had a rifle and was pointing it at people in a Wal-Mart. While he did have a BB gun taken from a shelf,, he simply wandered the store randomly, and (according to video of the event) never pointed it at any one.

    Putting aside the question of the officers' judgments and tactics, what culpability do you think those 911 callers bear?

    Tangentially related, in the Tamir Rice case, the caller told the dispatcher he thought the gun was a toy, but that was never told to the officers. Does the dispatcher bear and responsibility?

  161. Eric says

    AS I have repeatedly argued, the type of "bad" conduct by police officers that is toughest to resolve without extremely negative side effects is that of bad information — officers who act in sincere fear for their lives or those of others due to misinformation or missing information.

    I would call that "irresponsible" conduct, not "bad" conduct. Rushing head first into any dangerous situation without attempting to first ascertain the facts is the best way to get yourself or others killed, and not only in police work. This should be policing 101 (and I suspect it is). Screwing this up and getting somebody injured or killed should make the officer responsible for negligence. At a minimum, it should get them barred from police work for life. Just to make sure – with "screwing up" I mean "not following proper procedure".

    Putting aside the question of the officers' judgments and tactics, what culpability do you think those 911 callers bear?

    In your first case, the caller deliberately made false accusations. Culpable as hell, in my opinion. In your second case, the caller also made false accusations, but it is not clear if this was done maliciously, or from prejudice or paranoia. Culpable, but to a lesser degree. In the Tamir Rice case (I'm assuming that is your third case), I don't see what the 911 caller did wrong (though I do wonder why he would call 911 over a toy gun).

    Tangentially related, in the Tamir Rice case, the caller told the dispatcher he thought the gun was a toy, but that was never told to the officers. Does the dispatcher bear and responsibility?

    I would consider the dispatcher highly negligent and thus also responsible. But responsibility is not a zero sum game. Police know they will get conflicting and outright false statements from witnesses. This is why they shouldn't rush into any situation half cocked. But it seems that in all three cases you mention, the cops shot first and then couldn't ask questions later because the suspect was dead. That's kind of a massive failure on their part, wouldn't you agree ?

  162. Glenfilthie says

    Ayup.

    And St. Trayvon Of Skittles and the Gentle Giant of Ferguson were innocents too, right?

    Boys, let me help you out with this: if you are a mouthy, threatening shit with cops – yeah, bad things can happen to you. If you hang around with morons like that – yeah, bad things can happen to you.

    Our police are charged with keeping Darwin's failures under control or eliminate them. That doesn't sit well with liberals or libertarians – but genetics and natural selection will not be denied. Fact is, the cops save far more stupid people like Ken than they kill.

  163. DRJ says

    I think the post makes good points but not if it means you want to hold police to a higher standard of care/behavior. I question whether we should hold the police to a higher standard than ordinary people simply because of their training. For instance, we expect citizens to exercise reasonable judgment when they must resort to self-defense, but that doesn't mean their actions have to be the best possible choices — just reasonable under the circumstances.

    Police training is important for our safety and for the officers' safety, but it shouldn't be an excuse to hold the police to a higher standard than reasonableness. I would hold police to the same standard as ordinary citizens, not only because they expose themselves to greater risks but also because holding them to higher standards makes it too easy to second-guess what are often split-second decisions.

  164. Jimbob says

    Seriously, I don't know why so many police officers are so horribly afraid of people with video cameras. They should be reveling in the extra safety the cameras provide.

    After all, no citizen ever got away with killing a cop on video.

  165. graphictruth says

    There's an interesting diary on dKos about this – and it brings up some interesting points of law.

    The St. Louis County and other DA's throughout the state have been regularly misleading juries and grand juries with the mistaken and wrong impression that probable cause is not required for law enforcement before deliberate deadly force can be deployed legally because they just don't know any better.

    And worse even still, are Officers walking the streets of Missouri – or other states – also under this incorrect impression that all they need to use deadly force is to "feel threatened"?

  166. Robert C. J. Parry says

    I have been through several training sessions on use of force. Perhaps someone can speak with greater depth on this point, but the training I've seen in law enforcement (in Southern California) has always been that there must be a specific threat that the officer can articulate. Merely "feeling scared" is specifically not acceptable.

    Regardless, the bottom line is this: It is almost impossible to decrease the number of suspects erroneously killed without increasing the number of officers killed – unless you reduce enforcement.

    The classic example is the Kendrec McDade case in Pasadena. Reported (falsely – there was a theft but no gun) as an armed robbery suspect, he was chased by two officers into a darkened alley. He turned back on them and was shot and killed. The officers never saw a gun, but thought they saw one. The only way you get from "thought" to "100% unequivocally saw" is to exceed the threshold of human reaction time for a gun being pulled. That is a simple medical fact, proven over and over. There are bare minimum reaction times for various stimuli, and a suspect can squeeze a trigger faster than any of them.

    So the question becomes, how many cops is in OK to have killed (and actual evil people escape) in order to ensure that no more/fewer less evil (and, to be sure, generally innocent – John Crawford) people live?

    This is a matter of biology: Perception/reaction time and motor skill. The only way to keep the Kendrec McDades from being harmed is to demand officers hold fire longer in order to meet more stringent thresholds. A noble idea, for sure, on the one hand (no one WANTS to see an unarmed suspect killed), but one that has deep consequences.

    If you deny that, then you ignore the 43 cops who've already been murdered by gun fire this year, including the officer killed with his own weapon by an "unarmed suspect". And that is where the conversation ends with most cops and the politicians.

    Kendrec McDade was, by all evidence, a thief. We don't kill thieves. But then we don't tell cops they have to die to save thieves.

    So, how do you alter behavior generated by the basic instinct of self preservation?

  167. says

    @Robert:

    You conveniently didn't address Eric's post. In particular, the Tamir Rice case. There was certainly no immediate threat to the officers involved, given the situation when the police reach the scene: a kid milling around with no bystanders and holding a gun in his hand.

    In fact, if they truly believed he was a threat, pulling their vehicle up to within a few feet of the "shooter" is exactly the opposite of what anyone with a survival instinct would do. Doing so exposes both officers to being shot before even exiting the car. I imagine typical procedure in the Rice case would be to approach from a safe distance and order the suspect to drop his weapon at gun point.

    The grand jury has not returned anything in that case that I know of, but it will be interesting. Are you of the no-mistakes-can-be-made kind of astroturfer? Or are you willing to admit there are some situations where the system simply broken down?

  168. Robert C. J. Parry says

    @Donnelly

    You obviously haven't read any of my in-depth comments here. It's a long thread, I realize. But if a man will take the time to argue a position in detail, please have the courtesy to read them before you hurl around invectives.

  169. D.J. says

    Ken, are you or someone else affiliated with this blog on imgur? Someone on there has Popehat as their name, and it made me wonder if it were someone here.

  170. Harun says

    The same thing has been occurring within other government bureaucracies. We see bureaucrats realizing they won't be punished for most offenses and finding way to be unaccountable: see the IRS sitting on emails for years, and now playing games like saying "we can't tell you if we broke privacy laws because we'd be breaking privacy laws."

    We see EPA officials who used private gmail accounts for government business be rewarded with amakudari to Cupertino, CA. Sersly, Apple would only hire this person because of political connections and doing them a favor, and yet its all cool.

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