Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bad Cop. No Doughnut.

This post started as a response to a comment on a now notorious YouTube video by one akfuzz.

Here's the video again.

Here's what he said:

Obviously you have never been in this type of situation. Perhaps you could go out and do the job since you seem to know what the deal is. When you get stabbed or, or worse, shot, by an irrational handcuffed suspect, write back and let us know what you think, eh? BTW, I was not defending this officer, merely stating that given the limited video, 'tis hard to say what really happened.

Ok, that sounds almost reasonable, until you actually think about it.

There are two minutes and thirteen seconds of sadistic pornography captured on that tape - and as a cop, in a live situation, you are expected to assess threats, probable perps, instigators and victims in under 15 seconds, with any more time being a distinct luxury.

But with good training, that's easily possible, and that's a good thing, because you can get all sorts of dead in 15 seconds. So I KNOW who the perp is. And I really don't care that the victim was "acting out."

Here's what SHE said about it:

In the video, Gill, once inside the police car, kicks the back-seat window and continues to scream. "At this point, I had been Tased for so long and just drug around by my handcuffs. I was terrified of this man. He was no longer a police officer to me."
I suggest to you that that was not compliant mindset the officer was supposedly intending.

And if you ever find yourself in this situation, I assure you that a jury will find that amount of video more than enough time to assess whether sober compliance or panicked flailing is "more reasonable" to expect of a drunken woman already - by her own admission and according to the testimony of others- already in an aroused emotional state.

Earlier, akfuzz had uttered this deadpan confirmation of observations and criticisms I'd made earlier about cops, tasers and contempt of those currently in power for the rights and dignity of the citizenry.

akfuzz (2 days ago)
And, the Taser is used to gain compliance, nothing more. A suspect who continues to resist will be Taser'd again, handcuffed or not, male or female...It is not a gender bias thing, I have seen both men and women do horrible things while handcuffed. Nobody can say what they would have done unless they were in the same situation, not even other police officers such as myself. It would not be fair.
akfuzz (2 days ago)

It is very hard to Monday morning QB something like this. I could see where folks would be upset seeing this limited video footage, however, not knowing all the details makes it wrong to judge either the officer or the suspect. I am sure the internal investigation will reveal what really happened, and it's not right to bow to political pressure or the media, such as it appears in this case.
Yes, fuzzynuts, we HAVE seen how tasers are used to "gain compliance, nothing more." Even when it's a compliance that's a flat out violation of constitutional rights or completely unreasonable to expect, due to the obvious mental state of the person being tasered.

And in both cases, there's reasonable evidence to suggest from the raw video that there's a component of sadistic enjoyment in using the taser to inflict pain and enforce compliance.

Now, sir, my standards tell me that a person doing that without a badge has no right to expect restraint on my part to end their offense against the decent expectations of civilized persons. How do you then excuse those who do the exact same thing under color of law? Have you no shame? Have you no professional standards? Aren't you personally embarrassed by the mere existence of such walking trouser stains?

The raw footage from an officer's dash camera - a device intended to prevent the impasse of "he said, she said" situations in court is not "media pressure." It's presenting evidence of a situation that is of concern to the community.

In the real world where knowing truth from fiction is important, outside of the realm of Fox news, facts are facts, and evidence trumps protests of supposed innocence.

Note, when I say "evidence," I mean precisely that, in an exact legal sense. Whatever motivations or training deficits turn up, we don't need to wait to find out what "really happened." The why of it may be of interest, but what we saw IS exactly what happened. What we saw was a repeated assault against a person who was no threat to the officer.

What we do not know is what caused the situation to escalate to that point out of range of the camera - but it would be unwise to assume that testimony from either the cop, the club or the bartender mentioned in the dispute will be without any trace or shade of self-excusing selective interpretation. Besides, we know another thing.

ALL assaults against a person are, in fact, intended to "gain compliance, nothing more."

The blunt truth is, if you have to immediately resort to force to gain compliance, it doesn't show a lot of confidence in your own ability to control a situation, or much respect for the willingness of the average citizen to comply with reasonable, lawful directions in a tense situation.

Perhaps this is because their contempt for your understanding of "lawful order" is well earned? Perhaps it's due to the fact that, having a central nervous system capable of pointing and firing a Taser, you also have some doubts about the solidity of citizen support for your authority that the actual existence of the Taser implies - a means of enforcing compliance that any semi-trained thug can use in situations where a citizen's rightful response would otherwise be amused or enraged contempt at best?

You see, when you pull a weapon to enforce your will, you admit your powerlessness to affect the situation without it. You have abandoned any pretence of moral or lawful authority. You directly state - simply by carrying the damn thing - that you are no longer willing to depend on citizens being willing to comply because they respect you as a symbol of the rule of law and order. You expect them to comply out of fear.

But you pull the trigger, even on a "less lethal" weapon, you have just publicly admitted that your willingness to settle for fear and enforced compliance has bought you a buttload of paperwork - and that's the BEST possible outcome.

I've never been a cop - but I've ten years of martial arts under my belt, an art with a heavy emphasis on avoiding situations and resolving them with an absolute minimum of force. You learn to read body language, you develop a sixth sense for body language, and you make a habit of respectfully treating everyone as if they were Bruce Lee dipped in nitroglycerin. Why?

Because the most dangerous opponent is the one who realizes they don't exist on your threat-o-meter and is just drunk or distraught enough to need to prove you wrong.

Wait, make that a city councilman, a partner in the state's largest personal injury firm, who happens to be Bruce Lee, dipped in nitroglycerin.

And here's another why you should think like that. This jerk figured there was no downside to shocking the hell out of the pretty blond who wouldn't even look at him out of uniform.

What's she gonna do about it? He asks himself, Have a hissy fit?

Yeah. On CNN, no less. With her lawyer. With his very own porn tape playing in the background.

That cartoon cop was confident in the lack of power the suspect had in the situation, and willing to exploit that power imbalance to publicly humiliate her and disrespect her in front of her friends and peers - in order to avoid the heavy lifting (mental and physical) that is the job.

To protect and to serve includes suspects and panicked drunken blond chicks. It does NOT include acts that can be validly compared, metaphorically and in terms of impact on the victim and onlookers, to literal, physical rape.

Your primary tools are your presence, you aura of confident command, your knowledge of law, your reputation, your ability to create peace and security out of thin air, your patience and your integrity. All the rest of the crap hanging off you is available to any five buck an hour security guard - strike that, to anyone with an Internet connection. Including the uniform and the badge.

So the first thing you MUST keep in mind is that the casual use of said crap can erode every one of your main tools. The last thing you want is for peaceful citizens - even peaceful CRIMINAL citizens - to see you as a random, personal threat.

There must be fifty people who saw that incident, and one thing you can rely on - they will hesitate to call the cops in any preventative way, because they are now aware that calling the police will not prevent a situation from turning into an incident, it will absolutely guarantee it.

And people wonder why the violent crime rate is so high in the US.

If you have to rely on your uniform, your badge or your service issue plastic penis to prove you are a cop - like the fat-ass lazy jerk in the video - if you have to enforce compliance with a perfectly reasonable command - in the back of your mind, in the dead of night, and especially as you do the routine CYA in the report, realize that somehow you screwed up and were lucky enough to live through it because the citizen or citizen you abused or oppressed gave you a pass. Don't turn that mistake into a freaking policy, much less get lazy and expect you have a right to a life where it doesn't matter that you stupidity is committed in front of your own dashboard camera.

I mean, were I a lawyer, I would surely point out the fact height of arrogance that reveals and the depths of contempt for the good opinion of the citizenry implied by that particular lapse.

As for the risks involved in policing, do not whine to us about that. You get the uniform, you get the fast car with the sirens, you get to play with things that go bang and the county pays you for the ammo. It's an inherently dangerous job, with the perk of all the free adrenaline rushes you can stand. People actually jump out of perfectly good airplanes to get that rush, at a couple-hundred bucks a pop. You, well, we pay you for that.

Besides, it's a lot like a snowboarder stressing about wipe-outs. The only proper response is to try and keep a straight face and gently suggest golf as an alternate avocation.

A cop unwilling to take risks on behalf of the citizenry is simply an armed thug. And when I look at something like that and realize that as a potentially armed citizen I could handle that situation better - I will. And while I could not do your job on a day to day basis, Sir, there is nothing that would prevent me from handling such an incident far better. I know this as a fact, because I've been in such a situation, with a drunken, possibly suicidal citizen talking about the revolver he had in his waistband.

Not only did I handle the situation, I handled it without violence and without anyone at the bar I happened to be in becoming aware that there was a situation. That is because I relied on my ability to talk him down, rather than on the concealed weapon under MY shirt.

I'll bet you a box of Krispy Kreems that Ohio club has now hired their own security, so they don't have to rely on the risk of the city sending some random jerk to deal with loud drunks. Just because they wanted her gone that day didn't mean they didn't want her to come back - but not only did you traumatize her, but you scared the hell out of everyone else who was there. And it's a fact that whether it's fair or not, people avoid people and situations that remind them of very traumatic events. So the taxpaying owners have a very legitimate beef with that cop, his boss and the city. I imagine they have lawyers calculating the odds of successfully suing the city - and everyone else in range - for the loss of business.

So, really, it would probably have been better for everyone had that cop just slept off his ill-gotten doughnuts because his "resolution" of a breach of the peace was worse than the scuffs, hurt feelings and property damage he was sent to prevent.

Here's a new, related video that's brand new, and I'd like your professional opinion:

Consider this - and remember that tasers actually log their usage, for later use in court.

Now, here we don't know the exact situation, but it's difficult to imagine how a properly trained officer could end up tasering a schizophrenic woman - the person, by the way, who had actually CALLED 911 - and expect this to be taken as a good outcome. Oh, by the way, she passed away as a result of being tazed multiple times with two separate weapons. And yes, she was armed and she was delusional.

Oh well, that just adds to the challenge for a good cop. With good cops, situations like this end with rueful handshakes and mysterious appearances of chocolate chip cookies in the squad room. Anything that ends in a death is considered less than ideal, pretty much by the "duh" standard.

I know, I know, "we can't know what really happened." But, actually, we do know what happened - a homicide occurred as the outcome of a routine call.

We pay police to handle situations exactly like this with the expectation that they will be trained and equipped to as a matter of routine, with as little fuss and conflict as possible. We have the reasonable expectation that they have the training to deal with such situations better than we could. Let's recall that she called and asked for help. Obviously, help is precisely what she did not get.

So, whatever the resolution, whatever the facts, no matter what happened to make it all drop in the pot and to cause TWO able-bodied, fully armed cops to taser a morbidly obese schizophrenic confined to a power chair. She had two paring knives and a hammer. They carried guns fully capable of disabling the power chair, rendering her immobile, or at least very, very slow.

So why is she dead? WHY is the person who called the police for help dead as a direct result of police action, and what affect will that have on the willingness of people to call for help?

Presumably the cops expected a delusional schizophrenic to process an order to drop the weapons as if she were a sane, solid citizen who was NOT being menaced with the threat of force. They were clearly unwilling to accept even the tiniest risk of injury to themselves. But she was too freaking crazy to process that order, and the normal response of police - as you yourself stated - is to apply pain to "encourage" compliance.

Now, here's the bottom line. You are not employed by the "good citizens" in order to keep the "bad guys" in line. You are employed by the taxpayers - that would be all of us - to maintain law and order. So when you commit a breach of the peace as stock reaction to a fuckup in progress, you simply make a far worse fuckup than if you just stayed home.

Who in their right mind would call you for help, and why should you be collecting a paycheck? Hey, there are lots of people willing to beat the crap out of other folks for free, we surely don't need to pay for such a dubious "service."

Seems to me people who react like this are on the wrong side of the bars. When situations like this become commonplace, a widespread disrespect for and distrust of peace officers is inevitable. It makes the job more difficult and dangerous and ensures that when a situation does come to your attention, it's far worse than it would be for a society that is well policed and is generally law-abiding by choice.

Jeez; people like the cops shown in these videos - of which there are far, far too many to choose from - make Reno 911 look like a training film. And yes, we note "the blue wall" reaction, the automatic assumption that a fellow cop can do no wrong.

Well, as understandable and as human as that reaction is, policing is a profession with a skill set and a desired outcome - which is peace, safety, law and order. You are expected to handle confrontation, stress, danger, irrational and unreasonable people BETTER than other people.

When that does not occur, questions must arise, and you - as a person directly affected by the damage bad cops do to the reputation of good cops - should be the one asking them. Quite frankly, incompetent cops cause situations that get good cops maimed and killed. Believe it or not, I consider that an unacceptable outcome even though I stand firmly behind the next statement.

As citizens, we have the second amendment right to bear arms in order to protect ourselves from the abuse of power by armed thugs, especially armed thugs employed by governments and powerful people who wish to "enforce compliance."

We delegate that power to the police, but nobody who has actually read and studied our Constitution, our history, and the Founder's intent can delude themselves that any cop has more authority than that, or needs it. Your badge simply signifies that you are a citizen trained to keep the peace and can, presumably be trusted with that duty.

There is no inherent right for a peace officer to use force to impose their will, nor do they have any broader mandate to use force than, say, me. Actually, their mandate to use force is narrower, tied to the reasonable force doctrine with the understanding that they can be reasonably be expected to react faster and be better armed in most ordinary situations, as well as mentally prepared to make actually skillful decisions in dangerous situations. Therefore, a situation where I might be excused for blowing someone away would not excuse a police officer in the same circumstances, because a cop has more options than I do.

There is no authority they may appeal to that is superior to that of any other citizen. Indeed, their authority is identical, coming from the same constitutional authority. The citizen - and that includes the one you may be arresting at the time - has exactly the same responsibility and obligation to uphold and ensure the peace.

There is no "cop exception." A cop is simply a member of a "well regulated militia" who's especially trained to do that better than an armed mob.

And if it becomes clear that they cannot regulate themselves, and ARE no better than an armed mob, if they become arrogant and abusive it's not merely the right, but the actual, literal constitutional duty of a citizen to suck it up, and deal with the threat that band of thugs presents to the community.

Because, if I see a large armed man torturing a woman who is clearly no credible threat, I know what the immediate problem is. I also know what reasonable force doctrine tells me is a reasonable response for citizen without training and experience presented with such a situation - exactly enough force to resolve the situation without danger to bystanders or unacceptable risk to the citizen.

So for the average armed citizen with a concealed-carry permit, that would be three to the center of mass if you failed to comply with a reasonable order to "STAND DOWN, SIR!"

Understand clearly; under our Constitution, Law is not imposed by force, it exists by consent. When the use of force against citizens becomes routine, it becomes exactly the situation the constitution was enacted to prevent - and it not just authorizes, but mandates getting rid of not just the particular offenders, but all of those who employ them knowing that is what they will do.

That's the situation George Washington found himself in - and you, sir, are excusing as standard procedure the exact actions of Redcoats; in large part illiterate Hessian mercenaries who, after all, were just trying to earn a living until they were eligible for their pensions, such as they were.

And that sir, is exactly what you defend when you retreat to your "blue wall" tactics of solidarity. You are actually defending the philosophy of hired Hessian mercenaries who were not paid well enough to much care for taking risks in the line of duty, people that professional British soldiers held in contempt for good reason.

Mercenaries almost always prefer massive overkill - because it minimizes their personal risks. Of course, it also means they consider themselves separate from and not answerable to the folks they may find themselves shooting. Hell, Hessiens didn't even consider themselves part of the same physical Empire!

Now, when I see street cops expressing that same attitude, of not even being in the same empire as the ordinary schlubs they deal with every day, it seems to me that we have become two entire empires - those who get to tell the police who to beat up, and those the police get to charge with the "crime" of scuffing the officer's shoes with their objectionable asses.

And when you buy into that, you are a mercinary in the pay of would-be Earls and Kings.

So my question for you is this: Are you a cop in service to the people and the Constitution of this Grand Republic? Or are you a redcoat mercenary, jacking off to your copy of Soldier of Fortune and willing to do as you are told without conscience or question, so long as the king's schilling rings true upon the iron?

Is your ethos "to protect and to serve," or is it "Kill 'em all, let God sort them out?"

If you are the former, there is little I'm unwilling to do to support you in your duties, up to and including some personal risk on my own behalf. If you are the second - well, my forebears considered you excellent fertilizer, and so do I.

You should consider that situation deeply, because perception is everything. In order for you to do your proper job, the one we assume you signed up to do, the first thought of an average citizen should not be the desire to be suddenly elsewhere, but to welcome you and cheerfully aid you in your inquiries.

The first thought of a citizen should NOT be whether they will have to defend themselves against a police assault. They should not have to consider the possibility that they may be beaten up and than imprisoned for having protested that they were being assaulted.

Dear Lord in Heaven, the idea that it might be a better option to shoot a cop than to let a jury sort things out shouldn't cross even a criminal's mind, much less every single Black Florida citizen driving up from the keys to Miami.

But I bet it does.

And it does because people now consider their government and their police to be a potential, direct threat to their persons and their Liberty. Police abuse has become routine in the service of the interests of the powerful, people have been deliberately made reluctant to stand on their rights. But when you "send a message" to people - as was clearly part of the intent when Andrew Meyer was "dealt with" in order to prevent him from further embarrassing one of our Lords and Masters - you may not be sending quite the message you thought.

Here's another authoritarian response to the Meyer/Kerry incident and a citizen's reply.

conebone42 (1 day ago)

Ok, this guy deserved what he got. Not only was he SCREAMING at a US Senator, he refused to go quietly when the police asked him to leave for acting that way. Nothing that they did was out of line. You resist arrest, you get tazered. The police had every right to do what they did.

nyarltep (1 day ago)

im sure that attitude will keep you out of the fema camps

Here Endeth the Lesson son. Come the day, I hope you know which side of the thin red line to stand on.


Druff said...

Great post. I'm tired of having to hear my "liberal" friends defend the almighty taser. I'm finding out how many self-professed liberals are really closeted authoritarians. As we "non-lethal" our way towards "friendly fascism."

Krinn DNZ said...

Came here from Jon Swift's end-of-year roundup. Excellent, provocative post. I'm going to use talking points from this when I tell my friends about taser torture. Thank you!

LarryE said...

Also here via Jon Swift.

The thing that got me most about this was the assertion that tasers are to "secure compliance, nothing more."

No, they're not. They were pitched on the idea they would be an alternative to potentially lethal force, that is, they'd be used in cases where guns would otherwise be employed.

From the very beginning, I have expressed my concerns (most recently here) that they would instead become weapons of convenience, not of last resort but of first resort, not to save lives but to enforce meek obedience.

It has become abundantly clear that not only are tasers dangerous, not only do they inflict a level of pain that could arguably be called torture or at least abuse, but that police cannot be trusted to use them as they were supposedly intended.

They should be banned.


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