Our Police

As we all watch what French police are doing in and around Paris, perhaps it is appropriate to talk about our own.

The police in this country mostly do a good job of, well, policing. And beyond that, they often directly save lives. You can Google “policeman saves life” and come up with all kinds of stories like, “Prince George’s County Police Officer Saves Life of 14-Year-Old Boy” or “Officer saves baby’s life in Bridgeport” or “Dramatic moment policeman saves man’s life by dragging him from burning vehicle.”

There’s that side of the police, the good side, the amazing side, the side that keeps order and rescues people from danger. And then there’s this side:

NYPD police officers turn back on mayor during eulogy of slain colleague

NYPD Cops Again Turn Backs on Mayor at Second Slain Officer’s Funeral

Using the funerals of murdered New York City police officers—who were killed by a deranged man who had first shot his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day—as a forum to demonstrate disapproval—patently unwarranted disapproval, by the way—of the mayor of New York is not exactly exemplary behavior. The head of the police unions, lacking any class whatsoever, falsely and angrily claimed the mayor had blood on his hands for the murder of those two cops. That sort of police behavior is far short of “Dramatic moment policeman saves man’s life by dragging him from burning vehicle.”

But as graceless as that behavior was, and as embarrassingly self-serving as the ongoing work slowdown orchestrated by New York cops is (the police department is in a contract dispute with the city), it doesn’t compare to what New York police did to Eric Garner last summer on the streets of Staten Island.

One of the officers involved in the arrest, you may remember, put an ultimately deadly chokehold on Garner, who was about to be arrested on suspicion of selling single cigarettes from packages that lacked adequate tax stamps. Mayor Bill de Blasio, after that incident, made some remarks that accurately noted the fear that many members of the African-American community have of the police, particularly as cops interact with black males.

The mayor was careful not to condemn the police en masse, but New York cops, aided and abetted by right-wing media, took offense at de Blasio’s remarks, and the funeral protests and work slowdown ensued. The result of all this may be that the public, and public officials, will become reluctant to criticize, in any way, the actions of the police anywhere.

We all know that police work, when done properly, is what helps preserve our civilization, else the bad guys, including terrorists, would make it impossible to pursue happiness in any meaningful way. But it is precisely because we need the police to preserve civilization that they should be held to high standards of conduct. If they aren’t, if their actions are beyond even reasonable criticism, then we have to question the quality of the civilization we have and seek to preserve.

Not long ago I wrote a piece (“Do Black Lives Matter?“) that focused on the killing, by Cleveland police, of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The sixth-grader was playing in a park near his home, playing with what I described as a “toyish gun.” I wrote:

A concerned citizen at the park had called 911 and told the dispatcher that someone,“probably a juvenile,” was pointing a gun at people, even though the caller thought the gun might be “fake.” In response to the dispatcher’s inquiry, the caller identified the gun-wielding kid as black. By the time word got out to the cops on patrol, the part about the juvenile and the part about the potentially fake gun got lost. Responding officers were essentially looking for a black male with a dangerous weapon who was threatening people with it, and since young black males are 21 times more likely to get shot by the police than young white males, no one should be surprised that Tamir Rice is now dead.

We now know that the police not only shot the kid in less than two seconds upon carelessly pulling up within a few feet of where he was, but that they lied about what happened prior to the shooting, when they were unaware a surveillance video of the encounter existed.

We also now know that the rookie Cleveland officer who shot Tamir Rice had resigned from his previous job on a small town force just before he was about to be dismissed from the department. His superiors at his previous job regarded him as emotionally unable to do his duties, particularly involving handling his firearm. Cleveland officials hired him without looking into his background.

We also now know that the more experienced officer driving the police car that day in Cleveland, who wildly drove the car on the grass right up to the gazebo where Tamir was initially sitting, was involved in an incident in which the city of Cleveland paid out $100,000 to settle a claim related to excessive force.

We also now know that a Justice Department investigation, done before the Tamir Rice shooting, found that “unreasonable force was part of a pattern of behavior that was in some cases endorsed by supervisors” in the Cleveland police department. The review also found that the department was “sometimes chaotic and dangerous … and frequently deprives individuals of their constitutional rights.”

Finally, we also now know what happened in the minutes following the killing of Tamir Rice. The Northeast Ohio Media Group obtained additional video of the aftermath, after engaging in “protracted talks with city officials, who initially refused to release it.” Cleveland.com reported:

The video confirmed earlier claims made by Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, and her legal team at a Dec. 8 press conference that an officer cuffed her daughter as she ran to check on her brother and that officers waited several minutes before administering first aid.

The girl, who was at the park with Tamir, ran to her brother’s side when she heard two gunshots fired by first-year Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann.

As the girl neared her brother, Loehmann’s partner, Frank Garmback confronted her and forced her to the ground. Loehmann rushed over, and the two knelt beside her as she rolled on the ground. Eventually the officers handcuffed the girl and placed her in the back of the police cruiser, less than 10 feet from her dying brother.

Four minutes went by without anyone offering medical attention to the young boy. An FBI officer who happened on the scene was the first to do something for him. And the Cleveland police manhandled the boy’s teenage sister, who, naturally, wanted to run to his aid.

Do the police do mostly good things? Yes. But sometimes they don’t. They didn’t in New York City when they confronted Eric Garner. And they didn’t in Cleveland when they encountered 12-year-old Tamir Rice. And we owe it to our civilization to reserve the right to say so, no matter how many protests the police organize at funerals or how many parking tickets they refuse to write or how disreputable their union leaders act.

Here is the extended video of the Tamir Rice incident:

17 Comments

  1. Ben Field

     /  January 9, 2015

    Many police officers in New York disobeyed the direct order of the Commisioner and exposed that it is okay for them to ignore a police officers order, but not okay for citizen to do the same. Logic tells a sane citizen that many citizens are law breaking assholes, so why should one not expect a similar percentage of officers to be the same? I have seen it with my own eyes and I am a privledged white man. Just because you have never witnessed such behavior as a white man doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur, particularly if you are non-white. Why do many on the right and some on the left blindly accept the officer’s version even in the face of video showing otherwise? Family in law enforcement tell me the Cleveland and New York incidents were handled in an unprofessional and possibly criminal manner, but the “Blue Wall” stands in the New York Police Union. I would suggest they are not a union, but a gang, when they protect criminals. Justice is supposed to be blind, not us citizens.

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    • Ben,

      The union president in the New York case acted totally irresponsibly, no doubt. It was inexcusable and made me wince, as a union member and one-time activist and representative. I understand that the union primarily exists to protect the interests of its members, but I do think, particularly in the special case of people who are part of the justice system, that police union officials ought to be more sensitive to the public’s perception of justice. We are not blind, as you say, and when our eyes tell us something looks wrong, the police ought to at least show some understanding of why we might think that, especially given the awful history of law enforcement as it has interacted with black folks in this country.

      By the way, did you ever see the email I sent you a while back about that wonderful story you related about Jack Jackson? I don’t recall getting a reply, but maybe I just missed it.

      Anyway, thanks for telling a version of it on this blog recently.

      Duane

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  2. King Beauregard

     /  January 9, 2015

    This is news about the Tamir Rice case you may not have heard:

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/02/justice/tamir-rice-shooting/

    As for this:

    “We now know that the police not only shot the kid in less than two seconds upon carelessly pulling up within a few feet of where he was”

    You’re kind of leaving out the detail that Tamir appeared to be reaching for his toy gun immediately before being shot — and even the grainy video shows that he’s doing something that is at least consistent with reaching for his waist (where the gun was). Doesn’t prove he was reaching for the toy gun, perhaps he was just scratching himself, but nevertheless it was almost certainly a factor (and in fact the primary factor) in the cop’s decision to shoot.

    I realize we have differing opinions on this case and probably always will, but errors of omission don’t help shed any light on the matter. Remember that parable I whipped up about Obama rescuing children from a burning building and Fox News spinning it into a report that makes him sound like a sexual predator? Errors of omission matter.

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    • That is good news for all involved that an outside agency will complete the investigation, although I assume that the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department has a fairly close relationship with the Cleveland police department. Other than a federal investigation, I don’t know what other agency should do the job, but we’ll see what happens and what new information comes to light.

      I didn’t find it necessary to mention that Tamir may have pulled the air gun from his waistband for a good reason: there is no evidence he did so other than the cops’ testimony, testimony that, for me at least, has credibility approaching zero. I have seen that video I don’t know how many times and I don’t see anything that would convince me to any degree that he was reaching for his gun. In fact, what I can see could, as you say, be consistent with him reaching for his waist or it could be consistent with him not reaching for his waist.

      What we are left with is the word of the police, whom we have no reason to believe because a) they lied about the circumstances prior to the approach to Tamir—before they knew they could be contradicted by video evidence—and b) it is in their interest, professionally and possibly criminally and certainly civilly, to construct a scenario in which Tamir pulls the gun.

      It may very well be that he did pull the gun, or reach for the gun (for what reason we could only speculate; perhaps he was trying to show them it was a toy, for God’s sake), but I am not inclined to believe he did based just on the testimony of the cops responsible for killing him. They don’t get to make up an approach story that is proven false and then get the benefit of the doubt on what happened seconds later. Maybe some specialist can enhance the video enough to demonstrate one way or the other whether they are telling the truth on the matter of the gun. But even if they are telling the truth, that doesn’t excuse what I saw, from its horrific beginning to its sad and inexplicably indifferent end.

      So, while I understand where you’re coming from in terms of the charge of “errors of omission,” for reasons a) and b) above I didn’t find it critical to mention in a second piece about the shooting (I did mention it in the first piece, as I recall) what is tainted and necessarily self-serving testimony supplied by the police involved. Besides that, the video is there for all to come to their own conclusion about what Tamir did or didn’t do or, like me, find it inconclusive.

      I am sorry we don’t agree on this one, but comparing my excusable omission to a scenario about Fox “News” grossly lying about a heroic, children-rescuing Obama is, well, a little over the top, don’t you think?

      Duane

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      • King Beauregard

         /  January 9, 2015

        It’s exaggerated, but of similar nature. It’s very strange to me that you don’t see SOMETHING going on there — some sort of motion that, while we can’t say it was definitively reaching for the gun, it could at least be plausibly interpreted as such — and I’m finding that even “fuck the police” critics aren’t disputing the existence of the Mystery Motion. Hell, they’re coming up with theories like the cops told Tamir to toss his gun away so that they could then accurately claim he was reaching for his gun and thus have the right to shoot him … because they see something that they need to account for.

        “Besides that, the video is there for all to come to their own conclusion about what Tamir did or didn’t do or, like me, find it inconclusive.”

        Inconclusive, sure. I’ll give you that. But there’s something intellectually fishy about not even mentioning to your readers that there is a disputed event that has vast bearing on how to interpret the shooting, and perhaps they SHOULD look for themselves and come to their own conclusion.

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        • Ben Field

           /  January 9, 2015

          King,

          What this reader finds undisputed is the fact that these two officers placed themselves and Tamir in grave danger by sliding their vehicle within a few feet of an “armed suspect”. Had the suspect been a shooter, both officers would have been dead and not exited the car shooting. The sheer ignorance of such an approach to an “armed suspect” should preclude either from police work, and in my opinion result in criminal charges. 99% of cases that prosecutors bring to grand juries are true billed, but not Ferguson, or New York even with video. If neither of these two idiots are indicted in Cleveland, the judicial system is FUBAR.

          Like

        • No, I’m sorry, but it is not of “similar nature.” But I’ll leave that to others to adjudicate.

          You proceeded to obliquely compare, unfavorably, what I said to “fuck the police” critics. Again, I find that charge, indirect as it was, at least slightly out of bounds, if not ridiculously inapplicable. You know very well that I am not in the camp of those who disdain the police qua the police. I value, highly, what the police generally represent in a civilized culture. I just reserve the right to criticize them when I think they are wrong.

          And by the way, you label what Tamir did or didn’t do as “the Mystery Motion,” but, in terms of your argument, act as if there isn’t much mystery in the motion, if there was, in fact, a motion at all. Much, if not all, of what you claim about this incident rides on that alleged motion. On the other hand, not much of what I claim about this incident does. Whether Tamir made a move toward his waist, whether he actually had time (doubtful) to actually put his hands on his air pistol, has little to do with my criticism of what the cops did in this situation. Even if he had made such a move toward his waist, it wouldn’t have mattered if they had kept a safe distance from him initially.

          They pulled up too close to Tamir to start with. That’s the crucial mistake they made. They didn’t properly assess the situation before taking reckless action. On top of that they lied about the prior conditions. On top of that they subsequently failed to give his seriously injured body–by that time they had to recognize his age and at least have an inkling of the situation–proper medical attention. Instead, one of them tackled his 14-year-old sister, who was attempting to come to his aid.

          It troubles me, at least a little bit, why you, a highly intelligent person, are so entrenched in your position here, when what has been revealed since we first started arguing about this matter is so damning to your original starting point. You may claim that my position, in terms of omitting from this latest post the questionable claim by the police that Tamir was pulling what he knew to be a toy gun from his waistband, is “intellectually fishy.” But, again, I will leave the adjudication of just who is being fishy to others. I have made my case the best I know how.

          Duane

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          • King Beauregard

             /  January 10, 2015

            “You proceeded to obliquely compare, unfavorably, what I said to “fuck the police” critics. Again, I find that charge, indirect as it was, at least slightly out of bounds, if not ridiculously inapplicable. You know very well that I am not in the camp of those who disdain the police qua the police. I value, highly, what the police generally represent in a civilized culture. I just reserve the right to criticize them when I think they are wrong.”

            As well you should. My point was, even people who jump immediately to assuming the police are fascists see that Tamir made some sort of motion. Honestly, I’ve looked around the Web and I’m not seeing much of anyone disputing that Tamir apparently made some sort of motion that could at least be interpreted as reaching for a gun. I sure as hell see it.

            “Much, if not all, of what you claim about this incident rides on that alleged motion. On the other hand, not much of what I claim about this incident does.”

            Oh, quite a bit DOES ride on the Mystery Motion: because you don’t see it, all you see is a couple white cops driving up and shooting a black kid because [insert indefensible reason]. Because I DO see it, I am much more inclined to see this as a case of officers thinking, wrongly as it turns out, that their lives were at imminent risk.

            “They pulled up too close to Tamir to start with. That’s the crucial mistake they made. They didn’t properly assess the situation before taking reckless action.”

            You can’t tell me a single thing about what they did to assess the situation and you know it. And I can’t tell you either. All we know is what happened from the point the car appeared in frame. Prior to that, did the cops call out to Tamir from a distance? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Did the cops have some reason to think that rushing Tamir was the best way to resolve this? I can think of one scenario (if Tamir wasn’t obeying instructions being called out to him), but that’s entirely speculative.

            “It troubles me, at least a little bit, why you, a highly intelligent person, are so entrenched in your position here, when what has been revealed since we first started arguing about this matter is so damning to your original starting point.”

            I have already conceded that every single thing the cops did after the shooting was wrong. They failed to render first aid. They manhandled the sister. They faked their report. These are two bad cops, I won’t deny that; they shot a kid, panicked, and did everything wrong they possibly could.

            But even bad cops have the right to defend themselves if, as far as they can tell, an armed suspect is pulling a gun on them. And so whether they saw him reaching for his gun — or at least plausibly thought they saw him reaching for his gun — damn well matters.

            You originally brought this up in a post called “Do black lives matter?” so to you this boils down to white cops shooting a black kid just because. I say that even a white kid would have gotten shot under the same circumstances, because at the point the cops think you’re pulling a gun, the options available to them quickly reduce to “shoot first” or “go home in a box”. There is no cop who is going to say “well, I was planning to defend myself, but since you’re white …”

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            • Since we’ve gone over most of the ground, back and forth, I will focus on two claims you made, largely because I find this disagreement quite fascinating:

              1. “You can’t tell me a single thing about what they did to assess the situation and you know it.”

              I know what they claimed they did. The New York Times originally reported: “The police said the officer yelled at Tamir three times to show his hands, but the boy instead reached to his waistband for the object, which turned out to be a fake gun.” We now know that at least part of that account is false. There is no way they could have yelled at Tamir three times in the few seconds available. They connected yelling at him three times with him reaching into his waistband, as if the two things happened one right after the other. The video certainly disproves that. Not enough time available.

              In any case, it doesn’t really matter to me what they specifically did because I can’t imagine anything that excuses such recklessness. I really can’t. I don’t need to know, for instance, whether they shouted instructions at him from a distance, using a bullhorn or any other device. Why? Because not only would that not justify their subsequent behavior, it would only serve to further condemn it.

              Had they stopped a safe distance away and tried to address the kid in any manner, instructive or otherwise, it would have been fairly easy to figure out that they weren’t dealing with a psychopath bent on killing a cop or anyone else. Thus, even if your scenario of Tamir disobeying instructions were true, it doesn’t justify the subsequent recklessness. What they did, in terms of driving through the grass right up to that gazebo was patently stupid, not just in terms of what happened to Tamir, but what could have happened to them, if Tamir was indeed a psychopath who refused to obey their instructions. And it was that act of recklessness, even if they were simultaneously shouting at him on a bullhorn, that put them in the position they were in, not Tamir’s behavior, whether or not he disobeyed any alleged shouted instructions.

              And on this point, I notice you like to draw an important (for you) inference from what you say is a lack of “anyone disputing that Tamir apparently made some sort of motion that could at least be interpreted as reaching for a gun.” That inference amounts to this: because few people are disputing it (you say; I take your word on that), it must therefore be true, or at least plausible. You have made that point several times. Okay. I will ignore the fact that, strictly speaking, the logic of that position is technically flawed. And I will say that if we are going to make assumptions based on lack, then I would ask you why it isn’t also fair to assume that because there is no evidence available about what the officers did to properly assess the situation–other than what they have told investigators, which may or may not be true–there is in fact no justifying evidence? In other words, there is no justifying evidence out there, so, therefore, there is no justifying evidence. Isn’t that just as logical as your inference?

              2. “…to you this boils down to white cops shooting a black kid just because.”

              I assume you mean “because he was black.”

              No one knows what would have happened if Tamir Rice had been a white kid playing with a gun in that park on that day. Playing with counterfactuals is not an exercise in certainty. But we do know that, even under the most conservative assumptions possible (here is an example, for instance), that young black males are killed by the police in disproportionate numbers, even factoring in the disproportionate crime rates for young black males.

              It would be covering your eyes not to acknowledge that in this society, with its history of racism and its ongoing struggle with civil rights and the perceptions among an overwhelming majority of blacks that the cops treat them differently, Tamir Rice’s skin color quite likely had an affect on the immediate perceptions of those two white police officers, especially the one who shot him, the one who was essentially deemed emotionally unfit to handle his firearm.

              It matters what assumptions people carry around in their heads about others. It matters what’s in their heads when they have to make split-second decisions about intentions. Of course no cop consciously goes into a situation, as you tried to frame it, with the idea that if the suspect is white there will be a different outcome. But unconscious perceptions matter, from the original 911 caller (who, to his credit, suggested that it might be a juvenile and that he might not have a real gun), to the dispatcher who left out crucial information when contacting officers and distilled the description down to something like “black male,” to the officers themselves who perceived the dying sixth grader as a “black male, maybe 20.”

              All of that matters, just as it matters, as you admit, that these were “two bad cops.” And while it is true that “even bad cops have the right to defend themselves,” they don’t have the right to lie about it. They don’t have the right to fabricate a scenario that, self-servingly and against the available video evidence, attempts to justify their reckless behavior as professionals.

              Duane

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  3. Ben Field

     /  January 10, 2015

    “You can’t tell me a single thing about what they did to assess the situation and you know it. And I can’t tell you either. All we know is what happened from the time the car appeared in the frame. Prior to that, did the cops call out to Tamir from a distance? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Did the cops think rushing Tamir was the best way to resolve this? I can think of one scenario (if Tamir wasn’t following instructions being called out to him), but that’s entirely speculative.”
    Since you are so adept at discerning the “mystery motion”, review the video again and try to discern any sign of acknowledgement by Tamir that would suggest any communication was recieved from the officers. You see none unless you invent it. Any officer that would approach an shooter in such a manner would have been committing suicide if the shooter was qualified and not a 12 year old child. Period, ask any law enforcement officer, if you do not believe me. The entire situation from dispatch to the cops killing the child was criminally negligent.

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    • King Beauregard

       /  January 10, 2015

      “review the video again and try to discern any sign of acknowledgement by Tamir that would suggest any communication was recieved from the officers.”

      You know, you really are not doing a very good job of understanding “All we know is what happened from the time the car appeared in the frame.” I am not making the positive claim that any communication happened, but I am rejecting Duane’s positive claim that the cops raced up without any attempt at communication because he can’t know that.

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      • Ben Field

         /  January 10, 2015

        There is video of Tamir well before the car arrived,if you recall, in the first blog posted. None of which indicated any reaction by Tamir to any communication from police or others. Do you really think proper procedure to a “man with a gun” is to drive up next to him so he can shoot you in the face before you exit the vehicle? The cops really need to use the MRAP vehicles our government has given them to try a dumbass stunt like that. Is that the police protection you want? Drive up, jump out, start shooting? Neither officer is fit to serve. If I were on the jury both would be indicted.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  January 11, 2015

    An interesting exchange between people (three) trying to prosecute or defend a case in a blog. It is impossible to do so, prosecute OR defend by media alone. Such activities should be left to professionals on both sides.

    Let’s go back to the Zimmerman/Martin case, trial by media before a trial and them lot’s of second guessing after a full and public trial. End result was outrage from the left and for some, how many I have no idea, a sense that justice was in fact served in that particular case, one indicident involving Brown on Black violence. Of course Zimmerman’s subsequent interactions with law enforcement lend some credence to ideas that he was a racist gun slinger, again. But like it or not, such was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the first case brought before a jury.

    If a trial involves racial differences is beyond a reasonable doubt still the right standard? Read Geoge Will’s recent column about “perponderance of evidence” used on college campuses today to destroy the careers of some men in “sexual assualt” allegation cases and his question to any new attorney general during Senate hearings on that matter. Good question in my view.

    There are burning social issues in America today related to both police and military members. Generally, liberals seem to feel that both groups need strong retraining, better discipline and punishment for infractions within the “ranks”. Somehow we must reign in the unbridled violence or “misbehavior” of people in uniform. Cops indescrimately harrass blacks and military men rape or sexually assualt women is the general theme and “something” must be done about it, period. Then when a particular case comes up the “proof” is self-evident, even without any input from professionals as they investigate and try to resolve, legally, each specific case.

    Take your pick or use both liberal asserations; men in uniform discrimminate against blacks and/or military men and are violent in exercising such discrimmination women. Ok, what must be done, legally I ask. I am not talking about a specific case. I am talking about changing the laws of the land, federally or state by state to achieve your goals of no discrimmination of any sort and no violence as well.

    But while you are at that task, read the Sunday Globe about a single man (white it seems) that violated numerous restraining orders and killed a grandfather and his granddaughter after six months of stalking. That (alleged) killer seems to have had a total disregard for law and order and was focused on actions against his former wife. Even the Globe calls for greater punishment of such crimes and implies that law enforcement was limited in its ability to “restrain” that man before violenced took place.

    So to counter the angst from the left of brutal actions by police and members of the miltary, there is the concern on the right about lawlessness, total disregard for acting in accordance with law and good order by members of society. Throw in the politics of the “weaker sex” (gender) and “mistreated” minorities and the mixture becomes explosive in today’s American society.

    “Something” must be done to satisfy both sides it seems to me. But “what” to do specifically in terms of changing laws, well it beats me right now. I only know that changing laws must take place when ALL Americans are better protected, not just “slices” of America.

    I for one keep returning to ideas of “blind justice”. Face it, such is not the case in America so far, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. “Justice” depends upon all the various “tricks” that can be played by both prosecution and defense. On one hand the full power of government is aligned against those charged with crimes and if a defendant can afford a team of “slick lawyers” then sometimes they can pull all sorts of tricks to get guilty men and women to go free. Blind justice has little to do with courts. Good lawyers and good investigators make things happen, despite what the “truth of the matter” may be. Where is the “honor” in that system I wonder or real justice for that matter.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

       1. There has always been, and always will be, problems with the criminal trial standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Each mind on a jury is going to interpret evidence and understand arguments in a different way. Each mind on a jury comes into the courtroom with a lot of perceptions, conscious and unconscious, that affect judgment. So, what “reasonable doubt” means varies considerably. In fact, a lot of people confuse “reasonable doubt” with “beyond any doubt.” Given all that, though, I can’t think of anything better to replace the reasonable doubt standard. We just have to live with its messiness because minds themselves are messy.

      2. George Will’s argument has nothing to do with potential criminality being investigated by law enforcement officials. He was ranting against advice given to colleges and universities about how to adjudicate sexual harassment claims under Title IX (signed into law by Dick Nixon), which apparently requires use of the civil standard (preponderance of the evidence) rather than the criminal one. Maybe he can get his Republican buddies in Congress to rewrite Title IX, since their war on women’s rights is once again in hot mode.

      And by the way, if Will only wanted to make the sensible point that we ought to be careful about evidentiary standards for such serious charges involving sexual harassment or sexual assault, that would have been one thing. But he essentially pooh-poohs the whole idea that things like inappropriate touching are part of the mix and he seems to believe that if alcohol is involved then offending men are off the hook. Ridiculous. 

      3. Finally, I am glad you acknowledge that justice in our system is affected by money. Rich people can and do often buy more justice than poor people can afford. That could be partially fixed, but it would cost a lot of money. Are you willing to help pay for it? And the next step is to acknowledge that white people often get more privileges than black people in not only our justice system, but in society at large. We could begin to fix that, too. But that would involve things like affirmative action, which, as I recall, you oppose. 

      Duane

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  5. Ben Field

     /  January 11, 2015

    Anson,
    I don’t know the answer either, but I do know after viewing the video in this blog and the video in the previous blog that there is sufficient evidence to indict the officers involved. Not only the videos but the lies they told their superiors regarding the incident in my opinion demand it. If the officers can prove at trial that they were following orders and procedure in the killing of this twelve year, then that is something professionals can determine. I think you will agree that statistically about 5-10% of people in our population are sorry individuals that lie, cheat, steal, and murder for whatever reason. Why is it not logical to assume the same numbers exist in the working population of lawyers, tradesmen, businessmen, and police officers? Why do some people think all law enforcement professionals are always right and unaffected by the percentages of bad vs. good that exists in society? I think they hope that to be true, but in fact it is not. If the video and Eric Garner video were of white people, I would feel the same way, but to say that race was not a factor in either is a little dishonest.

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  January 12, 2015

    You see Ben, that is what confounds me in these cases, individual cases but people draw broad and sweeping conclusions from them.

    I am most familiar with the military issues; take drug use in the early 80’s as a matter of reference. Pot and LSD were broadly used in both the military and civilian world. Probably about the same percentages of users, broadly speaking in each different society, military and civilian, particularly when military personnel were on “shore duty” and generally living in civilian communities.

    But the use of drugs in the military certainly could have far more significant effects than in the general civilian population. Consider a pilot on LSD for example, or a submarine reactor operator, etc. It only took a few explosive incidents for the military to crack down and implement universal drug testing, frequently. Drug use plummeted in the military while it continued to move rapidly high in civilian society.

    Said another way, drug use became intolerable for anyone in uniform, on or off duty, anywhere. So the culture in the military changed with strong and legal enforcement and complete intolerance of using illegal drugs therein. After the Tailhook scandle in the early 90’s inappropriate alcohol abuse became a career killer as well. One DUI you are “out” today. Imagine firing everyone that gets a DUI or makes a fool of themselves while drinking “socially”!! The universal fine for a DUI in Germany is (or used to be at least)
    1/2 of your annual salary, across the board, first offense.

    My point is rather simple. Laws are meant to be followed and if society is more concerned about civil rights, etc than enforcing the law, well welcome to America today with far to much lawlessness, particularly in some segments of society. Show me a ghetto, white, black, brown or yellow, and I will show you increased lawlessness. Is that a racial issue, a socio-economic issue, of is it a “cultural” issue. Should poverty excuse lawlessness?

    Much is being said right now about how to control lawlessness from Muslims of the radical sort. Should the French police abandon “no control zones” or put undercover agents in all Christian Churchs before they put them in Mosques in equal proportions. How we “frisk” air travellers is the same issue, some kind of profiling which is generally disparaged by the left.

    I do not bring up such points simply because I am a “priviledged” white man. I bring them up because I do my best to obey the law and expect others in society to do so as well, regardless of race, creed, color, gender or socio-economic status.

    We need far better “balance” in behavior from segments of society. And if law enforcement sees smoke then I believe they MUST do all possible to look hard for fire, where the smoke is clearly seen by anyone that looks. That is not discrimmination. It is good law enforcement.

    One final point. Garner had been arrested and charged some 30 times before the last arrest, which he clearly resisted. The stalker in Joplin had violated various laws many times before he killed two people. The killer kid in CT was known by many to be “nuts”.

    So what to do? Only by looking hard at both sides of the issues of lawlessness can a solution be found that holds the best “balance” As for the “Cleveland case” I only hope the grand jury has people like both you and King on it and let you decided what to do in the privacy of a jury room AFTER all the evidence is presented.. As for Duane, I would hope he would recuse himself from such jury duty as he already has an opinon clearly formed on the matter.

    Do “Black lives matter”? Or should protesters carry signs saying ” Life matters for all”?

    Anson

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    • Ben Field

       /  January 12, 2015

      Anson,

      Twelve year old Tamir was not a criminal, but he was approached as if he were. Do you know of any military or police that are professional in their duties that would approach a “black man with a gun” in such a manner. Be honest, it would be suicide and you know it had the shooter been qualified. The are seven minutes of video prior to the police arriving that I asked King B to look at with his eagle eye (as he can see Tamir reach for his toy) to see if he can see Tamir looking out of the corner of his eye at the officers sliding up next to him. We now know the cop that killed Tamir was deemed unfit for service by his previous employer. Is this the kind of cops you want? My God, what does it take for you and King to admit he wasn’t “fearing for his life” but that he was criminally negligent based on video evidence? Forget the professionals what do your own eyes tell you? The multi-colored ghettos you mention seem to imply that this is only a problem in these areas. There are just as many criminals on Wall Street per capita as you will find in any ghetto. The facts quoted by Duane (not made up) that blacks are 21 more times likely to be shot by police is startling. My point is I have seen the videos, there is more than enough evidence for an indictment in both cases for any citizen that doesn’t think cops are infallible and always right.

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