America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.

Cops, Superheroes, and Stupidity

In my almost 60 complete revolutions of the sun, I have heard people say some stupid things. Truth be told, I spewed some idiocy myself. But, after reading a story about a protest over the recent police involved shooting in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I saw a statement that defies explanation.

The words are so without an inkling of intelligence or rationality as to be laughable if they didn’t revolve around such a serious matter.

The Providence Journal (http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20160409/video-protesters-in-pawtucket-call-silence-over-fatal-police-shooting-injustice) quoted one of the protesters as saying,

“A Police Officer should disarm someone, not shoot to kill.”

Where to begin?

Statements such as this come from people whose experience with police procedure comes from one of three places: Television, movies, or riding in the back seat of a police car with their hands bound behind them.

Such ignorance does nothing to promote better relations between the community and the police. Such lack of intellectual foundation does nothing but reveal the lack of understanding of the situations officers find themselves in on a daily basis.

If she had said, we have to discourage people from carrying guns so the police won’t be forced to kill them I could agree with her.

If she said, we in the community must work with the police to tell them about those who carry guns so we can prevent such confrontations I could agree with her.

But to expect an Officer, in a dark alley, after having a gun pointed at her twice, to somehow disarm the individual regardless of the risk to the officer is nonsense.

I have always said that much remains to be done to eliminate prejudice within our society. Much remains to improve relations between the police and the minority community. Statements like this hurt such efforts.

I can guarantee you that at the moment that Officer decided to fire, she did so because she recognized a threat to herself and her fellow officers. She didn’t see skin color, she didn’t see a socially handicapped victim of prejudice, she didn’t see anything but a gun pointed at her by someone she reasonably believed would use it.

Much is made about rights in these cases. Too often an important element of this discussion is left out, the right of the officer to live.

Officers have a responsibility to perform their duties impartially and lawfully. It is a heavy burden and one we should be glad that there are those among us willing to bear it. Officers accept the responsibility knowing it may come at the cost of their lives. That doesn’t mean it must.

Behind that badge beats a human heart. One that has a family, friends, and loved ones it cares for. Officers have an equal right to enjoy their lives.

Some Inconvenient Truths

Here are some of the inconvenient truths within the terroristic end-of-the- world we-have-to-kill-them  before they kill us nonsense arising from the media driven hysteria surrounding the criminal act in San Bernardino.

Syed Rizwan Farook, the male half of the criminal duo, was an American citizen. Born to Pakistani parents who, by all accounts, lived here legally.

He travelled, under a passport of the United States, to Saudi Arabia and returned with a woman, Tashfeen Malik. Subsequently marrying her.

He was estranged from his father because of his parents divorce. He apparently had selective adherence to who needs to die according to the Quran

Farook, as a citizen of the United States of America, exercised his Second Amendment rights and purchased weapons.

A whole bunch of weapons. And ammuntion. And other things protected by that untouchable Second Amendment.

So far, everything he did was well within his rights as an American.

And as someone who was not American, so well said, “There’s the rub…”

His mistake, in the eyes of the hysteria gripping this country all out of proportion to the perceived problem, was being Muslim.

They are all EVIL if I believe what I see in the reaction to this horrific act.

Those that hold the Second Amendment as inviolate have a problem.

They have to choose between an absolute right of Americans, absent a criminal record, to buy as many firearms and as much ammunition as they want, or acquiescing to a limit. Or worse, monitoring.

I have a more modest proposal.

Let’s just eliminate Muslims. They are obviously the problem. Even those that were born here. They’ve been bred to hate us.

They worship the wrong god.

Their book, the Quran, is filled with hatred.

Unlike the good book. The several thousand versions of the Bible.

They need to be eliminated from the earth. They are a scourge upon our planet. They are not American.

As Pope Urban II so well said when he launched the first crusade. “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.” He just didn’t realize he was talking about the good old US of A.

There, indeed, is the rub.

No doubt some took those words to heart. Damn straight, this in ‘Merica. Screw them!

There are Americans that wave the flag, clothe themselves in the Constitution, and believe in a divine right to the freedoms of this country who would so quickly deny the same benefit to others by virtue of their embracing a different religious doctrine.

It’s not like we’ve never done it before.

They would do this because a few within Islam embrace violence.

Islam is not alone in those of the faithful that prefer the sword to a peaceful tolerance of difference. The Westboro Baptist Kooks come to mind.

What happened in California was a criminal act. If inspired by a god, that says more about the danger of believing in gods then some would care to admit. What matters is not the reason they acted the way they did, but the fact that they committed a crime and did it intentionally.

I am glad the cops ended it the way they did. I’m glad they had the training, tools, and courage to do so.

I do not want anyone to determine someone deserves such a response by the police simply because they are Muslim.

If those so quick to post and tweet and blog and Instagram ever bothered to understand the way the American justice system works beyond what they see on television or the movies, they would understand that the court does not care what religion you adhere to.

It does not matter what you believe.

It does not matter what god you worship.

As a matter of law, your faith is meaningless before the court.

What matters is evidence. Does it prove you committed the crime?

There was a time in this country when being black was an automatic guilty. That fact continues to haunt justice in this country.

Do we really want to add the color of your faith to the problem?

If you are comfortable with the government deciding what beliefs are dangerous, whether or not you act on them, you are a fool.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who are willing to trade freedom for security, will have neither.”

I say, “those that are willing to trade someone else’s freedom will someday find themselves losing their own.”

I have no qualms with the way Mr. and Mrs. Farook left this mortal coil.

I thank the officers that did what cops do, running toward danger when everyone else runs away. They are the best example of the greatness of America.

I do not want them turned into an American Gestapo, seizing people by virtue of their heritage rather than their actions.

But the inconvenient truth is an American citizen, born here, raised here, exercised his sacrosanct Second Amendment right.

How do we fix that without becoming a disciple of Big Brother?

Selective Outrage

Once again this country is subjected to a dramatic incident of violence. In the rush to be first, the media outlets broadcast a constantly changing cacophony of half-truths and rumors.

Compounding the problem are the bloggers and reporter wannabes in their insular  agenda-driven worlds.

They were practically salivating at the conveniently ethnic origin of the suspect’s name. Whether it has any bearing on the truth or not.

Better to be first, than right.

The inevitable outcry by competing interests will flood the broadcast, print, and social media.

“More Gun Control!” “Less Gun Control!”

“Take away guns and only criminals will have guns.”

“Stop the Insanity”

“Guns don’t kill people, GMO’s do”

They’ll be the usual talk from the opposing political views that either this whole thing is Obama’s fault, or this is the consequence of interpreting the Second Amendment as inviolate.

And then it will fade away. The headline will be replaced, as it always is, by some other tragedy or scandal.

What happened in San Bernadino is a tragedy. A sad example of how much mankind has to go before they can truly be called civilized. Whatever fruitcake philosophy compelled these actions, be it a misinterpretation of religious doctrine or simple prejudice against those who are different, is repulsive.

How we respond will either set the course for positive change or doom us to an uncertain future.

Many will focus solely on classifying this as terrorism and incite the country to use its powerful military forces and bomb something, anything.

Somewhere else of course.

Nothing like the satisfaction one gets from watching the video of a cruise missile launch or a night-vision view of a target being obliterated.

But that will only mask the underlying problem.

The real tragedy here is that we fail to notice this is happening almost every day in our cities. In Chicago for the month of November this is what we apparently missed in the FOX, MSNBC, and CNN headlines.

Thirty-two people were shot and killed

One hundred and sixty-six were shot and wounded

That’s almost two hundred people and that’s just one city. That sounds like the statistics from a war zone. I dare say it is more dangerous to walk some neighborhoods in Chicago than it is in Kabul.

America can, and should, be better than that.

The necessary discussion on dealing with the very real problem of violence in this country will never happen as long as it is headline driven.

Be it a rational approach to firearms, the issue of racism or the propensity toward violence to settle differences, we need to use our intelligence and common sense here.

Not emotionally driven hyperbole.

We need to focus on the underlying problem. It is critical to the survival of this country. More so than idiotic causes that politicians so love to use to divert us from the real issue. The solutions are not easy, they are not found on Facebook and Twitter. They require thinking and courage. Surely there is an abundance of that in a free country.

Many good people turn to prayer at a time like this. But as the Dali Lama so well said,

“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”

Whether you believe or not, doesn’t matter to me. Whether you care enough to think this problem through and seek a solution does.

And one last point. You know who ran toward the carnage and danger when everyone else ran away?

Cops.

There are some dramatic images of the courage demonstrated by the officers involved. It would be nice if more people understood that is what cops do every day. And appreciated it.

 

 

 

 

 

How Can There be Good Cops, If There are Bad Cops?

I read an opinion piece the other day from the Bangor (ME) Times entitled, The False Message from those ‘Good Cop’ Stories? Things Aren’t So Bad by Heather Denkmire.

Here is the link and I encourage you to read it before you continue with my take on the author’s message.

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/08/05/opinion/contributors/the-false-message-from-those-good-cop-stories-things-arent-so-bad/

My first reaction on reading this was one of profound confusion. How can reports about the many good police officers and their acts of kindness and caring be a bad thing? If all we do is focus on the bad things, it distorts reality.

On reflection, I realized she had a valid point. Not the one she intended and I am sure one she does not even realize she made.

Her premise is clear, reporting stories of a Police Officer acting in some kind and considerate manner does detract from the issue of violence involving officers and civilians, too often civilians of color.

However, the problem is not that the media reports these stories, the problem is the author’s assumptions that all encounters between a police officer and a person of color are motivated by racism.

Ms. Denkmire writes,

“My daughter just heard a radio story about how a police officer who murdered a black man was having trouble finding a job. She found it troubling that the news story was focusing on the murderer’s “difficulties.”

Herein lies the problem. Taken at face value, this paragraph says a police officer murdered a black man and was having trouble finding a job. The statement implies the officer was “convicted” of murder. If that were the case, either the incident happened a long time ago and the former officer is now out of jail, or the statement is misleading. I think it equally possible the officer resigned due the incident, or was forced out by political expediency. Either explanation is viable.

Police use of deadly force is a serious and difficult issue. It would be naïve to assume that all such incidents are investigated as thoroughly as they should be. The benefit of media attention is clear, however media attention that meets standards of good reporting, not a Twitter feed or Facebook rant with questionable images.

The author also bemoans the unequal reporting of black as opposed to white murder suspects.

“We had talked before about the different ways the media portrayed white killers compared with black victims; for example, how Dylann Roof was shown opening Christmas gifts while the media use and crop images of black victims in ways that imply they are not entirely innocent. That kind of biased reporting is pretty standard.”

This is the problem with her premise. The very issue she points out here, about biased or slanted reporting, is the issue. She just has the real point wrong.

Here is an example of two headlines, same incident.

White Police Officer Shoots Fleeing Black Suspect in the Back

Same story, different headline.

Police Officer Returns Fire, Killing Gunman.

The tone of the first headline stirs emotion and the writer chose the words to generate interest in the story (that translates into sales). The second is the same set of facts but presented as just that, facts. Not an editorial comment implying wrongdoing by the officer (or highlighting the race of either party as being significant).

Now, I completely agree with the writer’s point that the incidence of violent confrontations between police and persons of color are, statistically, significantly higher than those between the police and a white person.

As Mark Twain once said, “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Here is an example, police officers kill more white suspects than suspects of color. The “statistics” bear this out. However, examine the numbers in depth, as a percentage of the population minority suspects are more likely to be confronted with a violent response. Both statistically accurate.

The perception by some officers that persons of color represent a higher threat is a difficult one to overcome, and wrong. Here is the sad reality, according to data from the FBI, though African Americans are arrested and incarcerated at a higher rate than whites, the majority of assailants who feloniously killed police officers in the past year were white.

There is a serious problem with racial bias in this country. Complaining that positive stories about the police ignores the issue, or minimizes its severity, is nonsense.

If you have read the article, it is clear the author holds a dim view of the police. She can barely concede that most officers are well intentioned and honest.

Therefore, I applaud her bringing the issue to the forefront. Underreporting or ignoring the issue is wrong. Portraying the issue as being solely the fault of the police is equally wrong. In fact, it is dangerous.

The only way to deal with this problem in the long term is through education. Racism is a learned behavior; no one is born racist, children are indoctrinated with it. In the short term, focused and impartial attention to the police and better training is the key.

The media needs to report factually and without sensationalizing stories. However, we all know what should happen and what does happen are two mutually exclusive things.

The police are not your enemy and people of all race and ethnic origin need be treated the same. If you break the law, your skin color should not have any effect on the disposition of the case. The numbers are clear. Perhaps we should focus on the inequities in the judicial system more closely since that is the only forum in which unlawful actions by the police should be addressed. Not on the street with a crowd of cell phone equipped people relying on legal advice from a Facebook post.

Here is my last statistic; there are 765,000 (approx.) sworn law enforcement officers in the US. Statistically speaking the overwhelming majority of them will NEVER kill anyone in their career. Nevertheless, I am willing to bet every single one of them will do something good almost every day in that same career.

A Perspective on Sandra Bland and the Issue of Resisting Arrest: Perception versus Law

My friend, Kent Harrop, wrote the following editorial on his blog about the Sandra Bland incident. I encourage you to read it before you read my response. You can find it here, https://greenpreacher.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/a-moral-emergency-the-death-of-sandra-bland

The issues raised about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and subsequent suicide of Sandra Bland are genuine. Racism and the difference in treatment of black people by many, but not the majority, in law enforcement is a fact in this country. Yet, having watched the entire video, I am struck by the fact that if the woman signed the ticket and fought the issue in court, this would not have ended the way it did.

I am not trying to explain away the officer’s actions or blame the victim, but we need to look at the incident in context and as a whole. Since we lack all of the facts at this point, a fair and complete analysis is impossible.

Nevertheless, we certainly can examine the incident as it underscores the issue of racism. Clearly, racism is a scourge in this country. It is rampant, insidious, and destructive. It is difficult to understand how people come to hold these beliefs, unless we glimpse into their past. Racism is a learned behavior.

I disagree with Ty Burr’s words mentioned in Kent’s article, ‘This is the tale of two stories, the official version and the one we can see with our own eyes’.

There is only one version recorded on video. Our reaction is a combination of our own perceptions, experiences, and opinions. What happened in the incident is there for all to see and hear. What transpired after, and why she was in jail for three days, remains unclear. The full investigation is not complete and there should not be a rush to judgment.

Up to the point the Officer decided to remove her from the car, he was polite and professional. Once he asked her to step from the car, she contributed as much to escalating the situation. Like it or not, we bear a responsibility to act in a civil manner despite what we may perceive as someone else’s failure to do so.

Assuming for the sake of argument the officer was wrong does not justify resisting arrest. It is not in the best interest of our society to think such resistance is acceptable; it is too susceptible to a range of interpretation.

None of us have seen the officer’s report. None of us know the reason for his deciding to remove her from the car. However, an officer can ask someone to step from the vehicle if he or she has concerns about safety, both the officer’s and the driver’s.

There is no constitutional right to resist arrest. If the officer says you are under arrest, then you are under arrest. There are a number of legal avenues to pursue if an arrest is unlawful, through the courts. That is the proper place, not in the street.

No one is in any position at this point to determine if the officer was justified. The reports of the stop and the reasons behind officer’s actions are still not public. If the agency deserves any criticism, it is in its failure to make those reports immediately available. We have seen this time and time again. Delay adds to the conspiracy mentality. That arrest report, unquestionably a public document, should have been made public.

I do know that officers deserve the benefit of the doubt during the incident to protect themselves. Once the matter is in the court, they can then be held to a high standard to justify their actions.

The issue of Bland being arrested for a minor traffic offense is not accurate. She was not arrested for the motor vehicle infraction; that was the reason the officer stopped her. She was arrested for failure to comply with what appeared to be a lawful request to get out of the car. That is all we have at this point. Why did he do that? What was his justification? All legitimate questions. The officer bears the burden of proving it in court, detailing the probable cause, and validating the arrest. The street is not the place to argue that.

Since the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, I can only assume there were other issues in that woman’s life we are not privy to. Having had hundreds of encounters on the street with people in all sorts of circumstances, I know officers develop a sense for people that are in a stressful or emotional state. From what I saw on the video, the officer’s initial conversation was polite, professional, and geared to evaluate the person. Doing that is critical to surviving as an officer.

Did Bland pose a threat? Probably not. Should the officer have demanded she put out the cigarette? No. Yet it doesn’t alter the fact that Bland contributed to the escalation. In her own words, “I can’t wait to get to court.” She should have, she would be alive and, perhaps, in the near future cashing a check for a violation of her rights.

None of the above alters the fact that on a daily basis in this country, Police Officers target minorities. Not all officers, not even a majority. However. if even one officer targets a person based on race that is a crime. There is much room for open and honest discussion of this issue. Much room for demanding change within our society.

It starts with education. Learning that despite differences in appearance or cultural norms or social standing we are all human beings entitled to fair and equitable treatment.

It is important we evaluate incidents once we have all the evidence. To do so prematurely leads to misinformation or worse. Recall the Michael Brown “Hands up don’t shoot” phenomenon that caused so much destruction. It did not happen the way it was initially portrayed, and the truth got lost in the media storm.

Knowing the full story, recognizing the deleterious affect racism has on us all, and using the courts to right all wrongs is the only way to deal with these incidents with any hope of eliminating them.

 

Silenced Justice: A Josh Williams Novel Available Now on Amazon!

Silenced Justice, the highly anticipated sequel to Collision Course, is now available on Amazon in print and Kindle format.  

Click here to link to my Amazon Author Page and read the early reviews!

Book Cover Silenced Justice Preview

Thanks to all who pre-ordered the book!  If you’d like a signed copy email me at joe.broadeadow@hotmail.com

Send me an email and write a review after you read the book.  I’d love to hear from you!

Gun Control: A Time to Rethink the Realities

I struggle with the idea of gun control.  Over time, my ideas have gone from embracing the idea that anyone should be able to own a firearm, as long as they comply with the law, to questioning the need for anyone to possess a weapon with the exception of the Police and Military.

I argued that there are practical problems with imposing serious gun control in this country.  Best estimates show there are 114 million handguns in private hands.  To create a program to remove them lawfully from private ownership has nightmarish legal and practical implications.

There are issues with overcoming the constitutional arguments.  I have revisited the arguments of the second amendment. I see a clear distinction in the common interpretation between its original intent and today’s modern era.

As with all aspects of the Constitution, adapting to a changing world is both necessary and reasonable

In light of the clear and undeniable problem of gun violence in this country, a new approach to gun control is long overdue.  The numbers for 2010 were 18,000 deaths and 33000 injuries from firearms.  Homicide rates in urban areas are 12.1 per 100000.

Some other interesting information; (various on-line sources)

The U.S.A. is ranked third out of 45 developed nations in regards to the incidence of homicides committed with a firearm. Mexico and Estonia are ranked first and second.

In 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for Mexico, where handguns are prohibited was 10 per 100,000, the figure for the United Kingdom, where handguns are prohibited was 0.07 per 100,000, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.

Gun homicides in Switzerland however are similarly low, at 0.52 in 2010 even though they rank third in the world for highest number of guns per citizen.

Perhaps we can learn something from the Swiss.

So, what are the arguments for allowing private ownership of guns?  Here are the two most commonly cited, the second amendment and protection against a tyrannical government.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Written at a time when the United States did not keep a standing army, citizens were called to duty when needed.  The benefit of having citizens maintaining and possessing firearms was clear.  The use of a firearm in daily survival, hunting for example, was common.  It was a different time.

Hunting is a hobby now, not a necessity. However, keep in mind, I am talking about handguns and, perhaps, high-capacity military type weapons.

Protection from tyranny.

Proponents of gun ownership often cite Hitler’s Germany outlawing private ownership of weapons as an example.  There is no evidence that the lack of private ownership of firearms by the German people contributed to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany.  The reasons behind that rise to power were infinitely more complex; handguns in every German home would not have altered anything.

This tyranny argument fails on two counts, one philosophical and one practical.  On the philosophical side, the idea that any American government could direct the military to attack the general population is ludicrous.

The men and women who serve do so because of the American people, not despite them.  I know no one who ever served in the military that would follow an order to attack American civilians.

Isolated incidents notwithstanding, the idea of a wholesale attack by the US military on Americans is insane. It makes for an entertaining movie theme, not reality.

Now the practical side of this argument.  Assuming for the sake of discussion that the President somehow convinced the military to attack civilians in a coordinated way, using the full power of the military, the “second amendment” advocates would not stand a chance.

A fully orchestrated attack by the 1st Marine Division, supported by aircraft, armored vehicles and artillery would utterly overwhelm a bunch of yahoos clinging to their precious weapons whose idea of training is drinking beer and shooting targets bearing the image of a politician they despise.

The idea that a citizen army could withstand such an attack is nonsense.

There is a long history of well-established civilian control over the military because the military is comprised of citizens. While one always needs to pay attention, I think a bigger threat to our freedom comes from Congress and not the Pentagon.

It really boils down to this, does the tradition of private ownership of firearms outweigh the real risk to our society.  We have a failing war on drugs because we thought we could arrest our way out of a health issue.  One that, while tragic, takes far fewer lives than handguns. Yet we seem to ignore the bigger threat of these weapons.

It is time for serious reconsideration of eliminating handguns, and perhaps non-hunting weapons, from private ownership and imposing strict control over their use by Law Enforcement.

Maybe it requires a discussion on the reasons behind our violent tendencies that are exacerbated by the easy availability of weapons.

I don’t know the answer, but ignoring the problem is not it.

A country that once said they would put a man on the moon, and did it, is most assuredly capable of finding a way to eliminate the very real threat these weapons pose to people.

Hobbling Justice to Satisfy a Bloodlust

By now the whole world knows something of the situation in Baltimore.  A man in custody of the Baltimore Police department dies and the inevitable peaceful protests turn violent.

The reaction in the country spans the entire spectrum from “send in the National Guard and start shooting people to Baltimore brought this on themselves.”

Depending on where you fall in this spectrum, either the cops are thugs or those throwing rocks, looting, and burning buildings are.

As with most things, it is much more complicated than that, but complex problems and the required complex responses do not make for good TV sound bites. 

Most wouldn’t, or sadly couldn’t  read it anyway which is another part of the problem.

It is impossible to sum up the issue, let alone propose a solution, in a 140 character Tweet or other such social media forum.  That doesn’t stop them from trying.

What I am about to say will likely be viewed by some of my friends and colleagues in Law Enforcement as heresy, but it falls upon them to refute it.

The character and nature of law enforcement has changed over the last several decades, mostly for the better but in several significant ways for the worse.

There was a time when the majority of law enforcement had daily, personal contact with the public not because of calls for service or responses to 911 calls, but from being out on the street walking the neighborhoods.  That all began to change with the movement to motorized patrol in a quest for efficiency and speed of response.

But the laws of unintended consequences kicked in.  We became faster in responding to problems at the cost of our separation from the public on a day to day basis, making us blind to the little problems as they developed. Those little problems eventually become big ones.  

We didn’t see the gangs taking over corners until it had already occured.  

We didn’t see graffiti growing until it was everywhere.

We focused on Patrol officers writing summonses for traffic violations and other such minor offenses as a way to measure efficiency.  When crime statistics went down we claimed it was embracing the “broken window” theory, if they went up, we attibuted it to factors outside our control.

The second error we made, or at least went along willingly, was the war on drugs.   The single biggest waste of resources ever.  Police departments that had one or two officers assigned to drug units suddenly assigned two and three times that amount.

Federal task forces were formed. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers brought in.  The resources of the FBI, normally not tasked with drug cases, were added to the mix.  We seized larger and larger amounts of narcotics.  Put more and more people in prison.

We also created opportunity and incentive.  An incentive to sell drugs and the opportunity to generate an income with little or no education or skills.  All one had to do was accept the possibility of  the occasional arrest and stint in prison.

We also created a need for those in the business to protect themselves and their territory, thus the proliferation of weapons.

And, we let natue take it’s natural course.  If one is born into an environment where your family business is narcotics distribution, it is likely you’ll follow in those footsteps.

And you know what happened as a consequence of this policy?

The price of drugs dropped, the availability increased.  Yet we all went happily along.

And do you know why we did these two things?

Money.  

State and Federal Civil Seizure laws proliferated.   Police departments siezed the cash, vehicles, and property of those we investigated.  Sometimes, we moved to seize the property without even pursuing criminal cases because the legal requirements in court were easier than proving a criminal case.

Cities, towns, and states brought in revenue from motor vehicle violations and whole departments were created to deal with the influx of cash.

We did it with the best of intentions. No one embraced the philosophy of strong drug enforcement more than me when I was on the job.  Being away from it and having the benefit of hindsight and mountains of evidence to validate this opinion has changed my perspective.

You cannot arrest your way out of a health problem. Just look at the number of overdose deaths from opiates, the numbers are rising despite our enforcement efforts.

What does this have to do with Baltimore? The riots and rage arising from these incidents involving the police are symptoms of the problem.

Whenever there is a violent encounter with the police, those that live in an environment of hopelessness see it as another example of how things never change.  The system is stacked against them.

Those that are fortunate enough to live outside that environment only see the violence, they do not see the cause.

In the case of the Baltimore cops, there is another troubling aspect. The rush to judgement.   These six officers are innocent of these charges and will remain so until such time as a jury finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

It is the foundation of our criminal justice system, the presumption of innocence.   No one should forget that.

Opinions of their guilt are not only meaningless, they are dangerous.  It is dangerous for anyone to assume the guilt of anyone absent a conviction in a court of law.   It would serve us well for everyone to remember that.

Police officers assuming that those they have arrested are guilty and entitlted to less than humanitarian treatment by virtue of that arrest are as wrong as someone standing on the street hurling bricks at the police because they assume all cops are racist and prone to brutality.

Cops are human beings subjected to the same flaws as everyone else, although most learn to rise above that and perform admirably.

I hope that those in the position of authority in Baltimore, the prosecutor and those responsible for investigating what happened in the back of that police van, remember that truth is the goal not a politically expedient path of least resistance.

If the evidence supports the charges, and these officers are one day convicted then that will be justice.  If, on the other hand, the evidence contradicts these charges then these officers are pawns in a game of politics that perpetuates the very problem of those in power deciding what is the truth.

If power determines truth, then this country is in deep trouble.

The (Almost) Foolproof Way to Survive a Police Encounter

In light of the recent controversy over the use of deadly force by the police, I decided to do some research.

Accurate and verifiable statistics are hard to come by, but for the year 2013 according to the FBI, there were 461 people killed by the police.  There is a website, killedbythepolice.net, which reported 748 people killed by the police for the same year.

Now, it seems obvious that a website called killedbythepolice.net, has a specific agenda (I am certain they would claim the FBI does as well) but assuming for arguments sake that these numbers are valid, let’s split the difference and say the police killed around 600 people.

First, that is 600 too many. However, with that said, we now turn to how and why.

There are certain conditions under which officers may use deadly force.

The officer must believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.

The use of force must be “Objectively Reasonable.”

This standard arises from a Supreme Court ruling in 1985, Tennessee v. Garner.

In almost every case, a Grand Jury reviews the use of deadly force by an officer to determine the justification.  That most Grand Juries do not indict, while frustrating to some, is a reflection that fits with the statistics.

Most Police shootings are justified.

Despite this justification, all cases involving the use of deadly force by the police are controversial.  However, the controversies and the emotions of those that disagree with the use of deadly force does not make it unjustified.

I did come across some truly stunning information, something that should give pause to everyone concerned with police use of deadly force.

Going back over the past thirty years, analyzing thousands of arrest records, there is a group of people who enjoyed a 100% survival rate in an encounter with the police.

Many of these people possessed firearms or other deadly weapons.

Many of these people had killed or gravely injured someone.

Many of these people had a history violence.

Sadly, some of these people were innocent of any crime.

There is one common thread within each of these cases.

They complied with the instructions of the officers.

They put down their weapons, they did not resort to violent confrontation, and they did not try to run.  They followed the officer’s instructions and survived the day.

For those that were innocent, most were released immediately. If not, they found an attorney, or an attorney found them, and they sued everyone.

For those that were involved in a crime, they went to court.

Nevertheless, they ALL survived.

Instead of spending millions on new, idiotic, and politically expedient federal training programs for police, just have a short lesson in all our existing schools and teach civility and respect for the law.  Oh wait, don’t we do that already?

Do you want to survive a police encounter?  The lesson here is clear, do what the officer says. Adopt a DO NOT philosophy.

Do not commit a crime, do not point weapons, do not decide to reach for your cellphone to video this perceived injustice, do not fight with the officers, just do what they say and you will survive.

Here is a good idea, let’s recycle all those idiotic T-shirts bearing the slogan, “Don’t Snitch.”  We can take out the words “Don’t Snitch,” and change it to DO NOT.

Here is an easy way to remember this advice.

Cops like DONUTS

Cops like DO NOTs.

Maybe I should print T-shirts. Order yours today at www.dowhattheniceofficersaysandliveanotherday.com