Friday, July 8, 2016

Simple Tragedy

Like most of you, I've been stunned by the events of the past several days.  The deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling followed by the attack in Dallas have illustrated that there is now a clear war between those who support #BlackLivesMatter and those who support #BlueLivesMatter.

This is the moment we've been waiting for, right?  The official declaration of war?

For years, every time a black male died at the hands of the police, it indicated a war was coming.  Every time a police officer died at the hands of a black male, it was a war coming.  The events of this week have surely removed all doubt that we now have a full-fledged war, haven't they?  Clearly the videos graphically depicting the deaths of Castile and Sterling prove a systematic targeting of black males by homicidal cops.  Correspondingly, no one can argue that sniping 12 cops from an elevated position isn't "targeting."

We obviously have two very homicidal groups of people clashing with each other now, don't we?

To find sympathy and understanding towards one of those groups is to most decidedly turn your back on the other.  If you think that Castile and Sterling should still be walking the Earth today, you are quite obviously a Cop Hater.  If you think that Micah Xavier Johnson was nothing more than a coward and a murderer, then clearly you have no sympathy or understanding for the plight of African-Americans who face police brutality on a daily basis.

You simply must chose a side, for better or for worse.  Failure to do so only earns you the disdain of both sides of this war.

Many moons ago, when I was in college, I took a sociology class where the professor made the off-hand comment that the only taboo that was acknowledged in all cultures was treason.  Initially, the statement seemed overly broad.  However, if you think about it, it makes sense.  Across the globe, there are some cultures in some places that will condone killing, stealing and raping.  None of those cultures, however, will tolerate betrayal.

As a former-prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney who still holds a great general admiration for the people of law enforcement, I think about that statement often.  When I blog in defense of a police officer (or prosecutor), I'm occasionally treated as being quite treasonous by the Defense Bar.  I used to be a member (and board member) of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, but my ties to old friends from the D.A.'s Office and my work on Cold Justice ultimately led to the end of that relationship.  Conversely, when I criticize decisions of the District Attorney's Office or the police department, I suffer the same level of ire and criticism.

Man, it's rough out there trying to think independently.

But, I digress.

At the end of the day, in the immortal words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."

Although it may be more satisfying to pick one side or the other, there are no such things as absolutes when it comes to humans.

Some of the most honorable, intelligent, brave, and selfless people I have ever had the honor to know wore a badge.  I may not have always agreed with them, or wanted to hear what they had to say, but in the vast majority of cases, I didn't doubt their honesty.  On the other side of the coin, I've spent the past seven and a half years of my life representing people accused of crimes -- from the innocuous to the heinous.  Some were guilty.  Some were innocent.  All were humans that had a story to tell and a reason for being in the position where I first found them.

None were the monsters that prosecutors often believed them to be.

The events that led to the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, and Brent Thompson were events that are a sad reflection of what the world is like today.

But they aren't a reflection of a "war."

There are horrible police officers out there who will use their badges as a license to lie, cheat, steal, brutalize, and sometimes, murder.  It cannot be denied that this happens, much more than we are comfortable admitting.

And of course, there are citizens who will lie, cheat, steal, brutalize, and sometimes, murder, albeit without the protection of a badge.  These are things that cannot be effectively prevented, unfortunately.  As much as we try, wish, train against, pray for, or teach about, there is no way to wipe out those who seem to truly enjoy harming their fellow man.

We flock to causes in the delusional belief that we can, though.

Yesterday, prior to the attack in Dallas, I watched a Facebook skewering of an individual who had dared to say "All Lives Matter" in response to a friend who had posted about #BlackLivesMatter.   Man, it was brutal.   This person was clearly going to perpetuate more deaths with an "All Lives Matter" posting, and thank God, Facebook was there to shout her down.

Four hours later, I was reflecting on the fact that five police officers went to work their shifts that day and never came home.  They said goodbye to their families with the assumption that they would see them again in a few hours, but those simple reunions would never happen again.

The families of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling would sympathize.

I'm rambling.  I know.  But in my opinion, none of this should be described as a "war."

It may make us feel better to pick a side and run with it, but that solves nothing.

This is simple tragedy.

29 comments:

Matt Dexter said...

"Although it may be more satisfying to pick one side or the other, there are no such things as absolutes when it comes to humans."

Well put.

However, there are some things in this world that are certain. My experiences in law enforcement and practicing law has taught me that its not as many as I once thought, though. Hindsight, being 20/20, can be easy. It makes judging really convenient. Its not until you are there do you understand. My heart goes out to all officers and all their families today. It can be a thankless job, even with those who profess to be on your side.

Conversely, I dont pretend to understand the "other side" of the coin. I dont have to understand to know that what took place was the work of a savage beast. Under any circumstances, what happenend in Dallas should be condemned. There is just no other way a civilized society can function.

Its so surreal.

Kathy Jackson said...

All of these events are clearly tragedies! Haterd for the sake of hatred should not be tolerated in this day and age, whether it is because of a persons color, religion or political persuasion.

Anonymous said...

The roots of these evils are, at the very least, caused by the continued findings of "no guilt" when those cops who are bullies of their badges are accused and/or alleged to have acted inappropriately. When they are continually allowed to walk free, stating "I felt for my life's safety," regardless of what videos disprove, they create an anger and hatred in their communities. If a driver of a van carrying eggs that are not fastened securely to shelves, delivers those eggs broken to his destination, he probably would be fired. But when a police driver delivers a dead man-who was placed in his van alive-to his destination, apparently the dead man is at fault. The police driver did not seem to be responsible for what he was transporting. When another man (unarmed) is fatally shot in the back while running from a policeman, the officer still believes his life is in danger and is absolved. Even in defense of "castle domain," a civilian better be smart enough to know not to shoot a perpetrator in his back, or be charged with manslaughter/murder. If the perpetrator is running away, the threat no longer exists!

The answer lies in the Grand Jury "no bills" and the repeated court findings for the officers, deserving or not, regardless of the videos and/or dislodged or "malfunctioning" body-cameras. These cases should not be tried by state/county prosecutors in the same venues or nearby locales of the murders. These prosecutors are on the same side of the law as the officers they are forced to confront and challenge. This is a clear conflict of interest and, at the very least, causes distrust and questions of commitment to the angered public. The prosecutors need and work closely with those same police agencies for the good they do. When a bad apple is charged, those same agencies seek to protect their officer but develop questions of the allegiance of the prosecutors. No good can come from that. The change that needs to take place is that those prosecutions need to be administered by either the state's attorney general office or a federal prosecutor, neither of which have any affiliation or allegiance to a local police agency. Hopefully then, at least, the public will attain a level of confidence that a complete objectivity and impartiality was exercised and pursued, regardless of the outcome. Trust is everything!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm like many of you when I say I have felt a crazy level of frustration, anger and despair over what has been going on in our country. As a white woman, I have been horrified as I have watched video after video of black men being shot in circumstances where it just flat out should have never happened. The first one that scared me to death was the one in North or South Carolina where the black man ran on foot from the officer. As he's running, you see the officer shoot him in the back from behind. Did the guy have a criminal history? Yes. Was he breaking the law by running from a police officer? Yes. Did his crime or criminal history rise to the level where he needed to be shot in the back? Absolutely not. Do I believe for a second I, or my brother, would have been shot in the back for doing the exact same thing? Absolutely not. The most recent videos this week just reinforce my beliefs. Those two men did nothing to deserve being shot. Don't even get me started on Mr. Castile, a guy with no criminal history who made the mistake of doing exactly what many of my white male friends do-legally carrying a gun. But Mr. Sterling-who may have had a gun in his pocket but was on the ground completely subdued when he was shot. Was that under any circumstances, necessary for officer safety? I've thought and thought about why we keep seeing these videos. It's too simple to just say the cops are racist. I have no idea what their views of black people truly are but I don't think for a second these police officers went out with the intent of killing black men. Do I believe they were honestly scared? With the exception of the North/South Carolina one, yes, apparently they were. I know every time a police officer pulls over a car on traffic, he/she runs the risk of getting hurt. It's a scary job that I don't pretend I could do. However, we have a problem in our society when some police feel so threatened by black men they come into contact with they are so quick to pull the trigger. Law abiding black men aren't given the same benefit of the doubt that I am and it's just not fair. I challenge anyone to watch the most recent videos and reasonably explain how what what those officers did wasn't completely out of line. And I don't want to hear how most officers are good. I KNOW most officers are good. I was a DA for years and worked with many wonderful, dedicated officers. And I was DISGUSTED by what happened to those officers in Dallas. But I'm allowed to be disgusted by cop killers and still hold high standards for cops. Just because most cops are good,hardworking, decent people, does that not mean we can't acknowledge that there's a problem in the way we police in minority communities? If we don't admit there's a problem and work to fix it, how will this ever change? Are we destined to just deal with this until we all just self-destruct? Or can everyone admit we have a problem in our society and deal with it? To put our heads in the sand and just blame the killings of black men on a couple of bad cops or the fact that some of them had criminal histories or the fact that some of them may have been breaking the law at the time is just to ignore the problem. I, like most people, support police officers and cried for them and their families when I saw them gunned down in Dallas. I also cried for Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile and their families when I saw them gunned down. I certainly don't know the answer but I can promise that if we don't try to find one, nothing is ever going to change. And finding an answer requires that everyone put themselves in the shoes of the people on the other side and truly try to imagine what it would be like to be them - and I mean both sides. Until we truly do that instead of immediately becoming defensive and resorting to the same old responses (you hate all cops, cops hate black people, and everything in between) I just don't see a way out. And it's damn depressing...

Anonymous said...

Is there any possibility that the officers in the Sterling and/or Castile cases were justified?

Anonymous said...

They're on tape! If you can look at those videos and come to the conclusion that those officers were justified, you are not being objective and need to really go back and try to watch them through an unbiased lens. And it does good cops no favors by turning yourself into a pretzel to try to justify it. A cop shot a man four times at point blank range who was reaching for his ID after getting pulled for a broken tail light and announcing he was legally carrying a gun. I've reached into my purse or glove box in front of an officer MANY times since I started driving at 16 years old and not once has it given an officer pause, much less cased him to pull his weapon. Another cop(s) shot a man at point blank range who was pinned on the ground by two cops and couldn't have done anything if he'd wanted to. I think it's questions like what you just asked above that make the average person absolutely crazy! After watching both videos closely with an open mind, in what scenario could either of those shootings be justified? It does no one any good to blindly support cops, regardless of what they do! It makes a mockery of the thousands of cops who bust their butts everyday and do the right thing day in and out. I have to say, I'm even stunned that someone who watched them could even ask that question. When it's that obvious, it's okay to say the cop was in the wrong. It's kind of what we should be doing as law-abiding, good people, right?

Anonymous said...

Well, 9:43, you're getting struck right off the jury panel.

(A) Regarding Sterling, his right arm is very much not visible. Is there no possibility, especially considering the context clues of the officers' actions and his well-documented propensity for carrying illegal firearms and resisting the police, that they reasonably believed he was attempting to grab the gun with his right hand?
(B) Regarding Castile, is any of that on video? Have you viewed any of the other evidence? Is there any sequence of events that may possibly explain the reaction of the officer?

As someone who believes in sober and serious investigation before leaping to a conclusion in a case where there are still serious unknown variables, I'll be fine if the authorities determine that one or both of the shootings weren't justified. But I'll also be fine if they determine that they were reasonably justified. I'm not going to jump to conclusions without all the evidence, especially in this climate.

Anonymous said...

Yes 1:35, if you want me to give police extra credibility because of the mere fact they're a cop and allow them to explain away a shooting where a guy is on the ground being held by two police officers, I will get struck. And you're not dealing with a bleeding heart here who has it out to get cops or someone who has ever been at the other end of police brutality. You're dealing with a white person who has always been treated with respect by officers and who worked in law enforcement for many years. I believe the overwhelming majority of police should be trusted. But that doesn't mean I have to give them the benefit of the doubt when things appear to clearly show they were in the wrong. Whether Alton Sterling was a good or bad guy isn't the issue. It's whether we can allow cops to be the judge, jury and executioner. When police have someone under control, regardless of the whether that person is a criminal or not, they can't shoot him. And I would think that's something we should all speak out against without excuses or justifications.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with you that officers cannot harm someone under control and should be punished when they do. However, it is a question of fact as to whether or not the officers in question actually had the suspect under control. Can you see Sterling's right hand and arm in either video? His left arm is certainly under control, but what about his right arm? If you can see that it is under control, you have clearer eyes than I do. One officer has zero hands on Sterling's right arm, while the other has his left hand near Sterling's right arm - and it's certainly not clear to me whether or not he actually has control of it.

I'm glad, though, that we have the time to watch the video over and over again to make a determination as to whether it was justified. The officers only got a few seconds.

Anonymous said...

You obviously have the right to have that interpretation. I just don't think those two fairly large officers did not have control of that man as they slammed his head to the ground. Alton Sterling was obviously large too but, in my estimation, they had pretty good control of him. I just don't think he could have gotten to that gun and, more importantly, he hadn't when they shot him. I'm really not trying to argue with you. I just think we have to call a spade a spade when we see it. To pretend there's a possible justification for every police shooting, even when the evidence points to the fact there's not, has brought us to where we are now. People stop believing that police are going to be punished when they make bad decisions that lead to catastrophic consequences and, eventually, faith in the police is lost. Of course this is going occur most in the communities who tend to pay the price for these bad decisions. Shooting someone should be an absolute last resort when you have exhausted every other option and have completely lost control of the situation. Under no scenario do I think that was the case when you watch that video.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's not the law. We cannot convict someone, even a police officer, solely on emotional satisfaction - which is why prosecutors, except for Marilyn Mosby and Mike Nifong, weigh cases on their merits and the law.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone commenting on this blog go to work with a bullseye on his/her chest, just because of the career they have chosen? Have you ever been confronted, belittled, disrespected, MF-ed, and verbally abused by absolute strangers, just because of the job you do? Have you ever had to run and chase someone at work? Have you ever tackled and wrestled someone to the ground at work? Have you been hit or kicked at work? Have you ever been spit on and told you now have AIDS? Has anyone ever shot at you? Is every move you make second-guessed and eviscerated by the media and so-called activists? Are you abused, criticized and lambasted at every single turn, just because of where you go to work?

Hell no, you aren't. You are probably sitting in an air-conditioned office right now, being incredibly thankful that you are not a police officer. Being a cop is an excruciatingly challenging job, and most individuals just don't have the stomach for it.
Everyone needs to admit that, own it, and respect the difficult job that officers have, especially when it comes to making split-second decisions when it comes to their safety. That is an important part of this rhetoric that no one seems to have the courage to admit.

One more thing: body cameras are going to be the downfall of the anti-police movement. Body cameras are recording comments being made by witnesses and bystanders during critical incidents that are later being denied when these same people are interviewed by investigators. The lies people tell to try to frame the police are appalling, and these devices are going to expose the true agenda of some of these "eyewitnesses."

Anonymous said...

I know it's a challenging job that I would never want nor pretend I could do. That's the precise reason why I'm not a police officer. But because of the mere fact someone is a police officer, we aren't allowed to say they've gone too far? That's absurd! Of course it's a hard job. Of course most of them are wonderful people and perform admirably in very difficult situations. But to say because they're police officers, they're actions can never be questioned is ridiculous. There isn't a job in America where people don't get questioned on their actions when they don't meet certain standards. The automatic answer to someone questioning a police officer's actions can't only be "being a police officer is a hard job" or "they do a job you would or could never do." Both those statements are absolutely correct but I'm still allowed to say (and as a citizen, should say) when I think they've gone too far. We all don't have to agree on every case where a person is shot by a cop, but I would hope we can all agree that officers shouldn't be given complete immunity to do whatever they want, which is kind of the argument you're making by acting as if they are above question. If we've gotten to the point where officers (or anyone) gets a free pass because they work a difficult job, I think we're setting a dangerous precedent. BTW, I agree that body cameras typically work in the officer's favor. But to speak as if that's the case in every single case is appalling to me. I have watched MANY police videos and the vast majority show the police doing exactly what they should be doing. But if you're trying to argue they ALL show that, either you haven't been practicing long, you haven't watched that many videos, or you're absolutely refusing to acknowledge anything that doesn't fit inside your narrative (which doesn't help your argument). Anyone who has ever had anything to do with law enforcement knows there are cops who show poor judgment. That's EVERY profession and police forces aren't immune. You can make your point without going to such extremes. It completely weakens your argument because you lose credibility.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:45 is absolutely correct.

Sipping cold glasses of sweet tea in the air-conditioned comfort and SAFETY of their desk jobs; the armchair quarterbacks are ever so quick to judge the split second actions of law enforcement.

Houston's very own black activist/agitator Quanell X never misses an opportunity to condemn the actions of non African American police officers use of deadly force on black civilians.
However, when he accepted Missouri City PD's offer to participate in their "Shoot and Don't Shoot training, he gained a different perspective and was man enough, after the exercise, to recognize that a rush to judgment without ALL the facts is wrong.

It seems ignorance is no excuse for the law……………..unless you're HRC or a BLM activist.

Doug A'Hern said...

Murray,

I spent 20 years in federal law enforcement before becoming a criminal defense attorney.

Most of friends are cops, and most of them understand that we make our living from the same system. Adversarial and acrimonious are two different things and fortunately the professionalism on both sides keeps us on an even keel.

Just my experience on this.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching cops interacting with black male suspects since long before the Rodney King chase became a historical footnote and the only conclusion I can come to on these latest videos is to wait for a complete investigation before spouting off full of liberal guilt. In the local video, the man was clearly waving something around in the direction of the police yet despite my exceptional eyesight I can't make out what it is based on the low resolution footage.

The video from the Castile case started by his GF started well after the interaction, some claiming his handgun was shown in his lap, but the main point in contention was whether the cop told him to reach for his wallet after he announced his gun in the car. Nothing shown to date proves that point either way so as in the other cases, I'll take the intelligent route and wait for the facts over knee jerk reactions. The two videos from Louisiana show the armed felon struggling against the officers, his arm not shown and his hand presumably somewhere close to his pocket according to the witnesses; the same place as his gun.

The narrative that police are not tried, fired, or otherwise sanctioned when they screw up is representative of those with the least amount of knowledge projecting "facts" that are not present, much like some of the Ferguson witnesses were later determined to be lying when forensics proved their versions could not have happened. I'm not saying to take either side's version or word for it but if you are trying cases in the court of popular opinion, you are part of the problem.

Every such case is thoroughly investigated and in the vast majority, when the facts are in, the police at worst displayed mediocre judgement, nothing close to criminal behavior. But for those who think they can do better, I hear every major police department in the country is looking for candidates so by all means apply. I am not a cop, nor do I play one on TV, and when they do wrong they should be punished but basing an opinion on poorly shot footage from a cell phone in low light conditions or a low grade security camera is pretty foolish. And the shooter in Dallas was a nut years before he picked up the rifle recently so side with him and child molestors all you like, the facts will still support most police actions.

The best way to have few problems with the police is to obey the law, do not commit crimes, and do not pose a threat with a firearm. I knew this when I was five years old but apparently some groups lack common sense. With over a million cops of one sort or another and over 200 million interactions with the public per year (per the FBI stats), some get hung up that most police shootings happen to people pointing a gun while committing a felony or refusing a lawful and reasonable order, that average of 700 per year offering a few that were undeniably the fault of the police versus the bulk being the fault of the suspect.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:08 - Clearly you're more brilliant than the rest of us. Telling us to apply to become an officer if we dare to have an opinion really helps up come to a solution to what is clearly one of the most difficult problems our society has faced in decades. Let's not try to work together to fix it, understanding that both sides (yes I said both) have legitimate grievances. Instead let's make sarcastic comments and speak in platitudes and act like our side has the moral high ground. Believing that anyone who dares to believe the police officers may have acted too quickly is, at best, a complete idiot and, at worst, a cop hater, is constructive. It couldn't possibly be that maybe the other side actually has an opinion that deserves to be considered. And after it's all said and done, let's sit around our living rooms and wonder why everyone seems to be so angry. Hmmmmm..... I wonder why? And don't even respond by saying the other side is just as bad. It doesn't matter and that's not a constructive response. If that's your answer, you're just as much a part of the problem as all the crazies you label on the other side and don't convince yourself otherwise. Maybe we should listen to what President Bush said yesterday - “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” Or is President Bush too "liberal" for your sensitivities? I've posted several comments and I have repeatedly, ad nauseam, stated that the vast, vast, vast majority of cops are good people with good intentions. That doesn't mean that there aren't problems we need to correct. To pretend that's not true, and spew vitriol at anyone who dare mention it, does not do a solitary thing to fix the problem and only works to make it worse. And last time I checked, this is America where we supposedly honor differences of opinion. Let's work together - come on! Both sides have legitimate complaints!

Mark M. said...

Anon 12:45,
Anyone who becomes a cop does so voluntarily. They are well aware of the job conditions prior to applying. If they can't handle the job conditions, why, they should take their H.S. Diploma training (or 60 hours of Community College!) and go down the road to see if they can find a job with the sort of compensation, job security, pension and other perks that a badge entails--with the level of skills and training that they possess; (go ahead, rebut with "military experience"). The troubles aren't likely to stop unless/until those good cops we all know of stop covering for the bad cops that we (and the good cops) all know of.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Anon 1245, you're last sentence was absolutely point on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:49,

If your contention that folks without a graduate degree ought to be grateful for the opportunity to risk their lives and serious bodily injury in their employment as law enforcement officers; what is your position on the folks with even less education who are paid by the state to do nothing……….ought they show a tad bit of gratitude as well? But I digress.

If facts are important to you check out: "Harvard Professor’s Study On Racial Bias In Police Shootings Reveals Much"
Posted at 9:00 am on July 13, 2016 by Susan Wright.

This new study on racial bias in police-related shootings may be shocking to you – or maybe not. The data has been available for some time. This is just the latest affirmation of what has already been out there.

The Washington Times reported on the study:

The paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which examined thousands of incidents at 10 large police departments in California, Florida and Texas, concluded that police were no more likely to shoot non-whites than whites after factoring in extenuating circumstances.

“On the most extreme use of force — officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,” said Harvard economics professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. in the abstract of the July 2016 paper.

Mr. Fryer, who is black, told The New York Times that the finding of no racial discrimination in police shootings was “the most surprising result of my career.”

And there we fucking have it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:45 here. Um, to Anon 3:12, I believe you may have misunderstood the emphasis of my commentary. Nowhere in my post did I state, nor even imply, the following:
"the mere fact someone is a police officer, we aren't allowed to say they've gone too far"
"because they're police officers, they're actions can never be questioned"
"The automatic answer to someone questioning a police officer's actions can't only be 'being a police officer is a hard job' or 'they do a job you would or could never do."
"officers should be given complete immunity to do whatever they want"
"they are above question"
"officers (or anyone) gets a free pass because they work a difficult job"
etc. etc. etc.

Nor did I state that all body camera footage shows that witnesses lie on the police.

Are you sure you read the right post?

The dynamic, dangerous, and rapidly-evolving nature of a police work is a significant part of how these encounters should be evaluated, and that is often ignored by the media, activists, and armchair quarterbacks. It's just sexier to paint with a broad brush and say all cops are all blood-thirsty assholes.

Kind of like the point it appears you were trying to make.

Jason Truitt said...

After having gone to the funeral of Brent Thompson yesterday, who was the brother of a friend and son of a coach and mentor, I can tell you that the ridiculous amount of spite being given off by the extremes on both sides simply does not exist for the majority of the police, families, and public involved. Brent's service was redemptive. It was filled with only one message-- hope not only for the family, but for everyone involved in the debate. To put down the anger, no matter what side you are on, and work toward a solution.

12:45, it sounds like you need to find your way into another profession. Yes, your job is hard. No, that does not excuse the abuses that some officers commit disproportionately against minority communities. But stop using these deaths for your whiney, bullshit purposes. Brent did the job without complaint and without seeking attention, as a police officer and as a Marine, and he wouldn't have typed anything on the internet that he wouldn't have signed his name to. But I'm guessing there are a lot of differences between you and Brent.

Brent's death was a tragedy. Period. All the more so because the Dallas agencies involved were not the ones being protested. The shooter killed officers who were not part of the problems in Minnesota or Baton Rouge, and by all accounts Dallas police agencies have vastly reduced the instances of violent confrontations with its citizens--doing exactly what Black Lives Matter wants to do

But the shooter was not with BLM. And the fact that his actions stand to derail a legitimate cause is a shame.

Brent was not killed protecting people who were protesting police officers. He was killed protecting people who were protesting abusive police officers. If y'all can't see the difference it can only be because you don't want to see it. If you think Black Lives Matters means that white, blue, or whatever other lives you want to support don't matter, that's only because your ignorance won't let you see that BLM is not exclusive. BLM is a direct response to years of violence against minorities. It is not the cause of violence toward the police. You can think that black lives matter and crimes against minorities should stop, while also supporting the legitimate officers that do the job right every day. I know you can, because I do.

As for body cameras--the wide implementation of which is a direct result of BLM protests--they will absolutely reduce the number of false complaints against officers. And that's great. If that's the rationale that police departments need to roll them out, that's fine too. They'll serve both purposes, protecting cops from accusations, while protecting citizens from bullets. That's a fair trade, any day of the week.



Anonymous said...

Hey brother Jason,

It appears that the Harvard study referenced by anon 8:35 directly contradicts your bias.

Comments?????

Warmest regards,

Another commenter who does not sign his name with bravado

Jason Truitt said...

Absolutely.

First, you should know that the study actually found racial bias exists against blacks in the use of force, generally. So the study actually supports BLM's stance that blacks are more likely to face force by officers than are whites in similar situations. And this isn't the only study to reach thins conclusion. Repeatability being a tenet of good science, this lends credibility not only to this aspect of the current study, but of past studies as well--we know that blacks are disproportionately stopped by the police and when they are stopped, they are more likely to be confronted with force than their white counterparts who were also stopped in the same circumstances.

But--despite finding no racial bias in shootings, the study did not address the types of instances leading to the stop in the first place.

You may ask yourself: "Jason, why is that important?"

Because we know there is racial bias in the reason a person is detained in the first place. So if, as we know, black men are more likely to be stopped for minor pretextual reasons, and whites are likely only to be confronted in response to more serious crimes, how many of those black men ended up dying because they had a joint or had a broken tail light, versus how many whites were killed because they already had a gun in their hand or were committing a more serious crime that justified a stronger response?

It's no big deal if 100 out of 100 blacks were shot who were assaulting an officer, when 100 to of 100 whites were also shot who were assaulting an officer.

But, if 100 black men died because they were committing a misdemeanor, yet 100 whites died because they were committing a violent felony, do you still think that single study is the be-all and end-all of studies? Do you think it's OK for people of any color to end up dying because they were reaching for a license or their CW permit, as was the case in Minnesota (i.e., committing no crime at all, not even a misdemeanor)? Would you think that more information was needed before reaching a conclusion if even the professor who conducted the study says that it is not dispositive? That it's only a starting place? That the numbers are based only on police numbers? That police agencies often under-report certain statistics (Baylor University Police reported zero rapes in the years leading up to the current scandal, after all, and officers in S. Texas are known to falsify the ethnicity of the motorists they stop to keep from looking like they are targeting Hispanic drivers)?

So for a complete picture, we need to know how this study on the use of force interacts with studies that show that blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped in the first place. I mean, if blacks are 2.5 times more likely, as a percentage of the population, to have run-ins with the police, yet equal numbers of whites and blacks are shot, wouldn't you think that means that blacks would be 2.5 times more likely to be shot when all studies are taken into account? Don't you think that, all things being equal, if the population is 15% black, and everyone was treated equally, only 15% of police shootings would involve blacks? You see? False extrapolations are fun.

None of these are easy answers, and the best way to perpetuate a lie is to have a good set of statistics. And that's what you, 8:35, and the white lives matter folks are trying to do--you are taking one study that is admittedly incomplete and shallow, and applying it to instances it was not meant to study.

And hey, it was even done by a black man, so that's even better, right! I mean, if a black man says that blacks aren't being picked on (even if that's not what he says), surely it's the gospel truth, whereas black men saying there is bias is an outright lie...

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:08:
"Every such case is thoroughly investigated and in the vast majority, when the facts are in, the police at worst displayed mediocre judgement, nothing close to criminal behavior."

And that is why we keep paying you, providing pension benefits, and all the perks of the position. Even if we accept the commonly held point that over 95% of all officers never shoot their guns during lengthy careers, why does it offend some of you that we raise questions about the other 5%? I know the general answer is that most of you do not know what the others are doing at any point in time, much like a colleague might only have a vague understanding of the cases I am working on in a corporate setting, but we keep being told how all of you good cops have no knowledge of what the bad ones are doing to the point it doesn't sound credible.

Otherwise, I understand why most here do not use their name, not out of cowardice but knowing that all it takes is one upset client to get you fired or for someone to anonymously complain to your police chief to result in sanctions. I work in such a location where we are cautioned not to post anything on social media because we work with sensitive material, one wrong impression and you can be out the door so I won't fault anyone for that, even Murray ran this blog anonymously for a long time as I recall.

Anonymous said...

Jason,

Mr. Fryer, the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard and the first to win a John Bates Clark medal, a prize given to the most promising American economist under 40, said anger after the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others drove him to study the issue. “You know, protesting is not my thing,” he said. “But data is my thing. So I decided that I was going to collect a bunch of data and try to understand what really is going on when it comes to racial differences in police use of force.”

He and student researchers spent about 3,000 hours assembling detailed data from police reports in Houston; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and four other counties in Florida.

They examined 1,332 shootings between 2000 and 2015, coding police narratives to answer questions such as: How old was the suspect? How many police officers were at the scene? Were they mostly white? Was the officer at the scene for a robbery, violent activity, a traffic stop or something else? Was it nighttime? Did the officer shoot after being attacked or before a possible attack? One goal was to determine if police officers were quicker to fire at black suspects.

How Officer Reports Were Coded
Excerpt from a typical Houston Police Department summary
Suspect Race: Black
Suspect Sex: Male
Suspect Age: 32
Suspect Injury: Wounded
Suspect Weapon Used: Firearm
HPD Firearm Injury: No Injury

Capital Murder (Attempted):
On duty HPD officers responded to a robbery. One susp. was arrested and handcuffed. Susp produced a weapon fired at HPD SGT. who returned fire; susp fled the building firing at a second officer who returned fire. Susp fled and was found later with gunshot wounds.
In shootings in these 10 cities involving officers, officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white. Black and white civilians involved in police shootings were equally likely to have been carrying a weapon. Both results undercut the idea of racial bias in police use of lethal force.

But police shootings are only part of the picture. What about situations in which an officer might be expected to fire, but doesn’t?

To answer this, Mr. Fryer focused on one city, Houston. The Police Department there let the researchers look at reports not only for shootings but also for arrests when lethal force might have been justified. Mr. Fryer defined this group to include encounters with suspects the police subsequently charged with serious offenses like attempting to murder an officer, or evading or resisting arrest. He also considered suspects shocked with Tasers.

Mr. Fryer found that in such situations, officers in Houston were about 20 percent less likely to shoot if the suspects were black. This estimate was not precise, and firmer conclusions would require more data. But in various models controlling for different factors and using different definitions of tense situations, Mr. Fryer found that blacks were either less likely to be shot or there was no difference between blacks and whites.

BTW, every "run in" with the police does not warrant the use of deadly force so your statistical suggestion otherwise is bewildering.

As to the use of less than deadly force by the police on black civilians, the study supports your claim that blacks are in fact more likely to be shoved and cuffed. Notwithstanding, precipitating factors for that police conduct were not delineated. Perhaps confrontational behavior not rising to the level meriting the use of deadly force played a role verses the arbitrary misuse of force based on race?

Thoughts?

Warmest regards,

Mr. Anonymous

Jason Truitt said...

Thoughts as to what? Your fallacy that I suggested that every run in warrants deadly force? Nowhere, ever, did I suggest that.

If all you're going to do is quote articles and make inaccurate claims about my statements, I'm afraid talking to you at all is a waste of not only my time, but yours. I don't really care about your time, but mine means something to me.

However, as to the quote about officers shooting at whites more regularly even when the whites had not shot at them first, this goes back to my point--what crimes were they being confronted with? If a white man gets shot at by a cop prior to the cop shooting at the white man, was it because the white guy already had his gun out and up? Did they classify the crimes such as "attempted murder, or evading arrest" together as you imply in your sentence? Because f they did, and 95% of the white guys were attempting to murder someone, while 95% of the black guys were evading, well, it only makes sense that they would shoot at the white ones first. They're trying to murder someone, maybe even the cop, after all. Why shoot at a guy, no matter his race, when he's just evading?

When you ask: "Perhaps confrontational behavior not rising to the level meriting the use of deadly force played a role verses the arbitrary misuse of force based on race?"

My answer is: Absolutely. Perhaps. We'll never know, because this study did not look at that. Nor did it, based on your snippets, properly delineate between the most violent crimes like murder, and other felonies, like evading. It only considered "serious offenses". I mean, Scott Henson can name 11 felonies ( a felony is a serious offense) you can commit with an oyster, and I'm betting someone like you could probably commit a 12th. What classes of felonies did they use? Do you think evading is as deadly as pointing a gun at a cop? This study evidently did.

I cannot stress enough that you cannot take one sub category from an admittedly incomplete study and extrapolate universally from it, yet that is exactly what you are doing.

Jason Truitt said...

Dear Anonymous:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/texanomics/article/Houston-still-has-a-racial-problem-when-it-comes-8378298.php?t=3bc5ea22eb438d9cbb&cmpid=twitter-premium

Read this and get back to me. I'm especially looking forward to our take on the study's author saying that Houston's data is suspect...

Michelle A. said...

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a police officer doesn't rank in the 10 most dangerous jobs. A garbage man is more likely to be killed during work than a police officer. I don't know if it's lack of training, unsubstantiated fear or an emotional bias; however, some of these officers aren't fit for public service. I'm a Caucasian woman in my fifties, and I know to be EXTREMELY careful in my dealings with local police officers. I greatly appreciate body cameras ( if they're operational). I've had few dealings with officers, and they have generally not been good. I'm talking about a car accident and a moving violation.