Since for the time being I find myself yet again stricken with verbal paralysis, I am reduced to stealing other folks’ words about the Michael Brown case. Here’s one interesting bit of context from a fairly credible perspective, IMHO.
A cop and young black male interact on the street, and [each] give[s] the other a bit of attitude. The officer gives some attitude because he’s tired of getting attitude from other young men, and the young man gives some attitude because he’s tired of getting attitude from other cops. Now, who’s at fault?
This, as simple as it sounds, is how it starts. Once the infection begins, it grows quickly. If you want to say the cop’s at fault because he’s the adult with training, you are right. And if you want to say the young man is at fault for disrespect or mistrust of a cop’s authority, you are right.
– Mark O’Mara (defense attorney for George Zimmerman). From Poisoned relationship between police and minorities. CNN.com. Aug. 13, 2014.
More soon. Just gotta gimme a sec. As usual, my reaction to these cases has to come in dribs and drabs, lest I run the risk of saying dumb stuff.
15 comments on “Who’s at Fault?”
The real problem, beyond any potential race issues, is “The Rise of the Warrior Cop”. Why in the world are LEOs being commonly trained and kitted out with for-[blank]’s-sake battlefield weapons?
[Take your pick of US city] is NOT in the middle of Syria or Iraq. For that matter, any well trained professional military person charged with handling battlefield weapons sh/would be absolutely aghast at how “casually” lethal force is being ingrained into PEACE officers, and enabled with literally free access to “surplus” military equipment courtesy of DOD. (Say, how many towns really need Armored Personnel Carriers, hmmm?)
I was raised with a whole lotta respect for law and order but the tide has surely shifted from “Protect and Serve” to “Us vs. Them”. Nobody with an active brain can miss this terrifying fact. If we change the color of the persons involved to Green vs. Green, the whole problem set that we are truly faced with becomes a lot more stark and holy-sh** scary for ALL of us.
I am so torn on this issue! I totally hear what you’re saying, but then I hear LEOs talk about what kind of equipment the bad guys have nowadays (and I see the news). At the very very very least, I wonder if the police departments are getting any training on how to use this surplus equipment properly for their context, or if they just get a new toy delivered and are left to figure it out by trial and error.
While I totally get that view point, I have to think that the use of force continuum must still be applied, and more importantly, a modicum of common sense must be used. Even if they are being left the equipment and told to figure it out for themselves, there’s still basic rules that are being violated. (And I don’t even want to get started on the fact that more and more, the police are starting to look like an invading army or secret police force rather than LEO/peace officers.)
If I (not a LEO) were to pull a gun on someone, it darn well better be because I had to— NEEDED TO— use lethal force. Not because I wanted to make sure the BG knew I was armed, not because I wanted to impress upon him my seriousness, and not because I wanted to show him I had the upper hand before things could spiral out of control. An officer can get away with that, but I can’t?
Is it too much to ask that police should also adhere to this? I routinely see video of officers that have drawn their gun and/or pointed it at the person they are talking to, or are placing their hands on their guns while talking to suspects/witnesses. That’s intimidating, at the very least, and in my opinion, not only unnecessary, but counter-productive. It’s one of only a dozen subtle ways that they are slowly creeping up on the territory of ‘tyrant/enforcer’ rather than ‘peace officer.’
I don’t doubt for a second that more training would help, but I’m not entirely sure the issue is merely one of training.
I’m working a case now (Did I tell you guys about this?) where an officer in pursuit went barreling down a rocky embankment, gun in hand, finger on trigger. He lost his footing and all hell broke loose. Long story but suspect is deceased and litigation persists now several years later…
First of all, let me admit that I don’t have enough info to reach any conclusion about the shooting, one way or another.
But from what I have heard, there was some sort of physical confrontation between the cop and the young man, and that apparently the cop got shoved into the car, and was injured in the process. I have also heard that somewhere in there, the young man is alleged to have attempted to take the officer’s gun. I’m pretty sure that in any jurisdiction in the country, such a move as seen as a lethal threat, and lethal force is authorized in response.
Now, if none of that is true, this next part is probably irrelevant…
But there are supposed to be witnesses who state that after the first shot(s) were fired in the car, Brown backed away and raised his hands in surrender, but that at least one additional shot was fired. This is apparently seen as evidence of murderous intent by the officer, but there may be a very valid physiological reason for it: the limits of human reaction time.
Anyone who shoots seriously knows that you can press a trigger very rapidly, and probably even more so under stress. But to stop shooting in response to a stimulus (the person you are shooting steps back and raises their hands), the shooter must go through three different steps. First, his brain must must perceive the stimulus, then he must process the stimulus and make a decision. and finally he must send a signal from his brain to his body to carry out the decision.
So it may be possible that the officer began to shoot in the car, firing multiple shots. Brown, realizing things are going badly, steps back and raises his hands…but the officer is still in defensive shooting mode. He may well have been unable to stop himself fast enough to avoid firing another shot after Brown had raised his hands…his nervous system unable to process the event fast enough to prevent another trigger pull.
It would also be very easy for a lay person or a witness some distance away from the altercation to misinterpret this. I’m not saying that this is what happened…I don’t know. But it could have. There was even a study done on this exact process: http://www.forcescience.org/articles/tempestudy.pdf
Think about it. If we went to the range, and I told you I wanted you to fire your pistol as fast as you could, but then yelled “Stop!” in the middle of your string of fire…do you think you could guarantee that you would not fire another shot after I called “Stop”? Not one more shot? And that’s without the stress of being in what you believe is a fight for your life…
Hi, Dave! Yep, all very, very possible. I just think with so few facts, and with the story changing so drastically so many times, and with emotions so raw and so much at stake, it’s dangerous to speculate at all. Frankly, I’m at a loss as to why there has been no release of forensic or ballistic info, like the autopsy report. If the police would be more forthcoming with objective information, people would be less inclined to fill in the blanks themselves.
Side note – Dr. Lewinski’s group does some great work, but it hasn’t always stood up in court (for various reasons, sometimes purely technical).
You are correct. Certainly not enough information to draw any kind of conclusion. Just offering an explanation as to how the “retreating with hands up” scenario could have played out.
Absolutely. All good points.
O’Mara is a smart guy, and a great defense attorney. So he is by definition not a neutral observer in matters of blame; his views on any given case depend on who the client is. Here he makes a lot of Capt. Obvious observations and attempts to play both sides of the ball, unless or until his services are retained, and then his views will be much more clear-cut and one-sided. In the meantime he makes a whopper of a mistake, perhaps intentionally, right there in the title of his piece…”Poisoned relationship between police and minorities”. While that may serve his purposes here and help him come across as an unbiased commentator (a paid gig), and actually has a basis in fact in general terms, it does nothing to address the incident in Missouri. Because the “minorities” he speaks of in Ferguson MO are actually the SUPERMAJORITY…black people make up 65% of the population there, whites 30%, and the rest “other”. So the entire crux of Mark’s argument here is flawed, and his primary point false.
But there is a valid point here, that the level of mistrust between citizens and those who are worn to “protect and serve” them is huge, and justified in many citeable instances, including right there in Ferguson. Because the police force there does indeed have a glaring issue with minority representation; out of 54 sworn officers, 3 are black, about 5%, and that Mr. O’Mara is the problem with the relationship between the cops and the peeps in Ferguson, and apparently has been ongoing for some time. Why? Well the chief says he hires every possible black applicant but there just aren’t enough of them, because “you have this existing disconnect and distrust between young blacks and the police”. Well I wonder why that is, chief?
It doesn’t seem to be quite the insurmountable obstacle in let’s say, Memphis TN, where you have just about exactly the same demographics at 65% black…but where the MAJORITY of the police force is also black and representative of the people they serve. Oh yes, there are plenty of problems at the cop shop in Memphis too…a big recent sickout protest potentially put the whole city at risk and had everyone there on edge and wondering if they were capable of providing their own protection…not that that’s any different than anytown USA in that regard; the local gun shops and shows here in FL have been handing out bumper stickers “I CARRY A GUN BECAUSE A COP IS TOO HEAVY”. Well, I’m a 30+ year former FFL and I know the reality of police response in a real emergency, so on the sticker I posted in my shop I struck through “HEAVY” and penciled in “SLOW”…like most gunlovers and 2A supporters I know that I have to depend on myself for the protection of me and mine…but I digress.
No, the reason that the ratio of populace to popo needs to be reflective is so that when something goes awry like it did last Saturday on that street in Missouri, and as our hostess here so rightly and intelligently points out, we don’t know exactly what did or “Who’s to Blame?”, one thing is sure; the shopowners and innocent families there who are being victimized by the THUGS (easy to ID these ones, Tiff) who are destroying that town in the name of “protest”, and the self-aggrandizing rabble-rousers with their media enablers in tow…would not be able to play the all too convenient “race” card when the shit hits the fan…they’ll have to actually identify and work to resolve the real problems and issues that fill the back of cop cruisers and jails with young black men…
We can start with the absurd drug laws, and then begin to tear into, dismantle, and correct a socio-economic system that no longer values or rewards an honest day’s work, and most of all the socialist system of dependence, entitlement, and the rotted social fabric and lack of personal responsibility that it has fostered and created.
But hey, that sounds like real work; you can’t just make a stupid sign or walk the streets with a hoodie on or torch the town or give out sniveling teevee bites to fix those things…so they probably won’t get fixed. Sometimes I’m thankful that my time on this rock draws near its end, but I do so regret what my generation has wrought for my children and grandchildren to endure.
And all it took was putting more representative government agents in place of ones who were not representative, and who were correctly or incorrectly perceived as being oppressors.
Had that representation been in place six days ago, it is highly unlikely that we would have been reading about all hell breaking loose there, I dare say even if a questionable shooting took place…because there would be no impression of oppression even if all other facts were the same.
Everybody wants representation that reflects themselves, their values, and their interests. That’s what representative government is, or should be, in all its branches and iterations. It really is as simple as that. And then a community can go about the business of dealing with its very real and troubling underlying issues without the glare of cameras and attention whores.
Captain Johnson is my new favorite person. 🙂
The odds of the media getting the facts correct in early reports, probably exceeds your odds of winning a lottery. If it involves self-defense, the odds of EVER getting it correct are worse.
I don’t think the police should have any rights beyond those of any other citizens – that whole, “equal under the law” thing. It’s wrong to shoot someone who’s retreating. So even if there truly was a physical confrontation and the first shot was fired to maintain control of the handgun, once Brown had retreated, the follow-up shots were not justified, and the police officer should face charges for homicide or murder.
If what Brown’s friend Johnson says is true, the cop started with verbal assault, escalated to battery, and then to murder. Hopefully this police department has their officers recording at all times, and we can get some unbiased data. However, with how little information the department is releasing, I have a feeling the facts aren’t in their favor.
Hey there! Thanks for chiming in. I’d agree that it’s difficult if not impossible to justify shooting a fleeing person. But I’m also hesitant to take for granted any facts whatsoever at this point. It’s just too early, and there are too many unknowns. Even within my relatively short time on this earth, I can remember lots of instances where details reported in the media turned out to be false (whether by mistake or by deceit). So now, even when I have initial suspicions, I’m more inclined to wait before making up my mind about what happened, since I wasn’t there to see it for myself. You’re right that unbiased data would be wonderful, but sadly at this point it is in short supply.
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