The Judicial System's Blessing Of Police Use Of Excessive Force Makes It Nearly Impossible To Hold Bad Cops Accountable

from the the-courts-have-cops'-backs,-but-who-has-yours? dept

It’s not just the thin blue line insulating bad cops from accountability, it’s the entire judicial system. From lower-level judges treating statements from police with amazing amounts of credulity even in the face of past misconduct or contradictory recordings to the nation’s top court, the judiciary branch, giving police officers built-in defenses that far exceed those available to the public.

An op-ed by Edwin Chemerinsky (lawyer and Dean of Law at the University of California, Irvine) notes that recent decisions by the Supreme Court have put even more distance between bad cops and accountability. Earlier this year, the nation’s top court essentially gave police officers permission to open fire on anyone deemed a threat and not stop firing until they determined the threat to be neutralized.

A suspect that led police on a 100-mph chase met his end when police officers fired 15 bullets in his vehicle, killing him and his passenger. Although other methods may have ended this chase without resulting in the suspect’s death, the Supreme Court found nothing about this use of force was “excessive.”

The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and ruled unanimously in favor of the police. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the driver’s conduct posed a “grave public safety risk” and that the police were justified in shooting at the car to stop it. The court said it “stands to reason that, if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.”

While the police have access to a wide variety of tactics and less-lethal weapons when dealing with “public safety risks,” there’s really no need for them to use anything but their guns. (Which they do… with gusto.) The Supreme Court’s decision turns any perceived threats to “public safety” (practically speaking, “officer safety“) into blank checks for excessive force.

Federal courts aren’t much better than the Supreme Court when it comes to prosecuting excessive force. Amanda Taub at Vox, writing about the ongoing investigation into Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s killing of unarmed resident Mike Brown, notes that while officers can find themselves facing both local and federal charges, Officer Wilson’s chances of walking away from this situation intact are still very high.

Simple murder is not a federal offense, but it is a federal crime for a police officer to deprive someone of his rights under the Constitution. If a victim dies, the perpetrator can be sentenced to life in prison or even the death penalty. That means the DOJ could prosecute Wilson under federal law for violating Brown’s civil rights, if the evidence supports that charge.

Federal civil rights prosecutions are rare, though, and convictions are even rarer. A study from Syracuse University’s TRAC program found that between 1986 and 2003, fewer than 2 percent of civil rights matters referred to the DOJ were ever prosecuted. Out of 43,331 referrals, 690 were actually prosecuted — and of those, 423 resulted in a conviction.

If pursuing criminal charges seems futile, Wilson could still face a civil lawsuit, with only a slightly greater chance of success. This, too, can be traced back to the Supreme Court.

When there is not absolute immunity, police officers are still protected by “qualified immunity” when sued for monetary damages. The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011, ruled that a government officer can be held liable only if “every reasonable official” would have known that his conduct was unlawful. For example, the officer who shot Michael Brown can be held liable only if every reasonable officer would have known that the shooting constituted the use of excessive force and was not self-defense.

We already know the Ferguson Police Dept. believes Wilson’s actions to be defensible. Statements released by the department claim that Mike Brown got into an altercation with Officer Wilson and tried to grab his gun. It has also claimed that Officer Wilson suffered injuries from Wilson’s attack (although it has released no photos or medical information to back up these claims). The courts have repeatedly shown that officers claiming to fear for their safety are fully justified in deploying deadly force. In the absence of any start-to-finish recordings of the incident, it becomes the police department’s word against the words of Mike Brown’s legal representatives. And the department will have some form of immunity as well as “officer safety” to deploy in its defense.

With all of this in play, it seems unlikely that there will be a satisfactory resolution to the Ferguson situation. And, despite all appearances otherwise, Officer Wilson may truly be justified in his shooting of Mike Brown. But the legal roadblocks erected by every level of the judicial system makes it extremely difficult to combat the use of excessive force. Even when the system comes together to punish officer wrongdoing, it’s rarely the officer that bears the burden. Whether it’s a settlement or a prison sentence, it’s still the public footing the bill.

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Comments on “The Judicial System's Blessing Of Police Use Of Excessive Force Makes It Nearly Impossible To Hold Bad Cops Accountable”

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95 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

And maybe, just maybe, the near-impossibility of police being held accountable is one of the driving forces behind the Ferguson protests, where they knew that if they didn’t raise a stink over it, the entire matter would have been brushed off, labeled a ‘justified killing in self-defense’, with no real investigation, or further action taken.

People seem to be waking up to the fact that cops have no effective limits on what they can do, and worse, the cops know it too.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Every tin pot dictator needs a police state to keep the people under their thumb. America has slowly been having one set up around them. All in the name of fighting terrorists funded and trained by the American government to fight other countries.

It is a rather clever idea. They create the enemy to focus the attention of the American people, then they pass anti freedom laws that shred their constitutional rights all in the name of fighting the terrorists they set up.

Corruption starts at the top and trickles down. when people realize the police are not required to follow the law, the self perceived wealthy and elite are able to ignore the laws they create. What do you supposed your ignorant masses yearning to be free are going to do.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Judengelb

We already have a Jewish Question. The undesirables include non-whites, illegal aliens, impoverished, dissidents and computer hackers.

We already have the work camps. They’re called Departments of Corrections.

Are we waiting for someone in power to implement a Final Solution while their colleagues pocket-approve it by not objecting?

This is not a complete, exclusive list.

Pixelation says:

Split opinion

I have a bit of a split opinion on this one. One the one hand, why should a police officers’ word outweigh mine? On the other hand, why should my opinion weigh as heavily as someone who puts their life at risk on a daily basis to protect others?

Perhaps if you are really pissed off about how cops treat people, you should go be one to help balance out the culture…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Split opinion

Best thing to do is become our own police force and render them useless. Or we can continue with the status quo. The proles have the power if they stand together. Government requires people to believe that said government actually has any authority over their life. The police exist as they do because the people allow it to happen and justify why it exists one way or another.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security… To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

-refused Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

-erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance

-kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures

-affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power

-combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation

-For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States

-For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent

-For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury

-For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences”

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Approaches to change.

Eventually, someone will have to.

I don’t think this is going to be resolved peacefully. It would be grand (and quickly effective) if we could get huge numbers of people to sit and passively resist riot cops with giant pepper cans, tear gas and loaded guns, but in those cases, some of the people have to die. It’s the massacre that makes people in power realize they’ve stepped over a line.

So far Americans are not willing to actively risk being part of the massacre that changes minds.

The other approaches are more belligerent, though obviously not a direct clash.

Varsil (profile) says:

Re: Split opinion

Equality before the law is one of the most important principles of justice. Any police officer who thinks his word should be given extra credibility as some sort of favour owed for danger involved in the job (police officer not even being on the top ten most dangerous occupations) is not an officer who supports the rule of law.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Split opinion

so, the ‘metric’ is (why am i betting your metric will change depending on what is debunked, why am i betting you will find some way to excuse authoritarian excess ?) how ‘deadly’ their job is equates to HOW MUCH someone’s ‘word’ should be given credence ? ? ?
you know, it is instances like this that make me wonder if there is ONE FUCKING HUMAN BEAN left who knows what ‘logic’ and ‘rational thinking’ is…
because you DO realize that donut eaters are actually FAR down the list of occupations where people are KILLED on the job…
(NOTE, not DYING on the job: falling off a scaffold, etc, but KILLED DEAD by another nekkid ape…) cabbies, firefighters, and RETAIL STORE CLERKS are MURDERED on the job MORE than kops…
so-o-o-o, according to YOUR ‘reasoning’ (coughidiotcough), cabbies are THE most truthful and trustworthy people on the planet…
(frankly, i think cabbies probably ARE more truthful and trustworthy than -say- kops, but i don’t think that has fuckall to do with how ‘deadly’ their jobs are…)
again, 90% plus of kops NEVER draw their weapons in the course of their CAREERS, much less their average day of cooping and extorting donuts…
kops are NOT here to ‘serve and protect’ us 99%, but the PROPERTY and interests of the 1%… THEY WILL KILL US ALL -black AND white- TO ‘SAVE’ a store or a loaf of bread, THAT is reality…

RD says:

Re: Re: Lives on the line

“2) The notion that the police put their lives on the line is at this point a false one. Very few officer die in the line of duty.”

Correct. SOLDIERS put their lives on the line. Police keep the peace and maintain law and order. Is there risk? Sure, but nothing like the imminent and direct danger to life that a solider puts themselves into. A solider is, literally, EXPECTED to give his life in defense of his country. A police officer being killed is the exception, not the rule.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Brown was a Jedi.

No, you see Wilson realized that Brown was a total frikken Jedi Knight, and even when unarmed and running away Micheal Brown STILL had the power to kill him with his own brain. Even with his hands up, Brown was one Jedi Mind Trick away from completely dominating Wilson and sending him on a wild Droid hunt.

In fact, Ferguson is the home of a secret Jedi order, where unarmed brown people (including Michael) practice their dark art of manipulating The Force™ which is why they had to face the Brown protesters in similar numbers dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers.

It’s the only explanation that makes sense, Man.

Whatever (profile) says:

back seat driving?

I think that one of the problems inherent in all of this is that the courts realize something that most people don’t want to accept: most of us will never face the situations.

It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, to second guess someone when you have hours to review a video or days to chat about options. Most of us never have to stand there in the proverbial line of fire and make a choice.

Given time, and the luxury of no pressure and no life and death situation in front of us, most of us can come up with a better way to resolve the issues. It’s much harder to make it all happen at the moment, when you have a half a second to react.

So yes, they have a list of less than lethal options, not all of them will work. Deadly force generally works, and when you have only a split second to make the choice, they perhaps are a bit quick to choose to shoot rather than take another choice.

Remember though that it all tracks back one step further, which are those people who choose to break the law, choose to ignore police officers, and choose actions which put police in a position to make their lethal choice.

Once again, the police are not the enemy, they are just people like you. You are the cause and the effect.

teka (profile) says:

Re: back seat driving?

” It’s much harder to make it all happen at the moment, when you have a half a second to react.”

Training. Lots of training.
These men and women are supposed to be professionals who are qualified to make those decisions in that time period and to make them correctly. That is where all the mystical unofficially official and the real official prestige and trustworthiness is supposed to come from, isn’t it?

If the professional law officer’s reactions boil down to the same “eh, good enough” outcomes that any slack-jawed fool could come up with then why are they funded and given special powers, special cars and nice big guns to cruise around with?

“Remember though that it all tracks back one step further, which are those people who choose to break the law, choose to ignore police officers, and choose actions which put police in a position to make their lethal choice.

Once again, the police are not the enemy, they are just people like you. You are the cause and the effect.”

oh, I forgot.
Disrespect Of Cop, Driving or Walking While Non-White or Non-Wealthy and Any Suspected Crime We Can Think Of Afterwards are all punishable by an impromptu sidewalk firing squad of one. (or two or seventy-five, depending on how bored the rest of the department is)
I forgot that bit of statute, how silly of me.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: back seat driving?

If the professional law officer’s reactions boil down to the same “eh, good enough” outcomes that any slack-jawed fool could come up with then why are they funded and given special powers, special cars and nice big guns to cruise around with?

Yet they are human like the rest of us. Even with all the training in the world, it comes down to a split second, often adrenaline fueled reaction, at a peak moment of the most basic fight or flight situation, and you are upset because they perhaps erred slightly onto the side of protecting their own hide?

Disrespect Of Cop, Driving or Walking While Non-White or Non-Wealthy and Any Suspected Crime We Can Think Of Afterwards are all punishable by an impromptu sidewalk firing squad of one.

You know what? It takes two to play that game. There are not cops driving around randomly shoot black guys drive by style. They aren’t just randomly picking them out, putting them against a tree, and taking them out. Get over it already.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: back seat driving?

Saying that they are human like the rest of us doesn’t work as an excuse though. People in positions of power must be held to higher standards so they don’t abuse the power they have. If your excuse for misconduct is that you’re just an average joe, why shouldn’t you lose your job and become one again?

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 back seat driving?

I think the problem here is that there are two situations, and it’s easy to mix them up.

There is abuse of power types, and there are situations that happen in the heat of the moment. Cop who puts 14 bullets into a fleeing car to make sure it stops isn’t playing abuse of power, he’s in the heat of the moment.

it’s easy as hell to paint everything as an abuse of power. But that abuse of power would be more as padpaw calls it, the “random beating of people to death” which seems remarkably rare.

Mixing situations together to create a sort of FUD and general mistrust creates it’s own problem, one that cannot be resolved by “they must be more responsible” alone.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re:5 back seat driving?

Yes it is. Any number of us “non-cop” types have jobs that present stressful situations where we have the opportunity to screw up. Most of us like to take pride in knowing that we do NOT in fact screw up in such situations. We are professionals. We care about results of our efforts. We tend to be embarrassed if those efforts aren’t successful.

Once again, this is like patents. You’re trying to apply the “random schmuck” standard rather than the “experienced professional” standard.

It’s hard? Cry me a river. It’s part of the job.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 back seat driving?

It doesn’t matter though. Cops have a horrible image problem they need to correct. They separate themselves from the communities they’re supposed to serve, they see civilians as the enemy, as potential problems or threat assessments instead of people, and they try to be badass about it, which scares the people around them.

Saying it’s more complex than that is technically correct, but does nothing to help the discussion. People do tend to be mean and stereotype, but… isn’t projecting a stereotype part of the reason officers wear a uniform and badge? Isn’t it the police’s responsibility to change their stereotype for the better?

David says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

There is abuse of power types, and there are situations that happen in the heat of the moment.

Every “heat of the moment” moment has a history that made it possible for it to happen. If the fundamental impulse for dealing with a complex situation is to keep killing actors until the situation becomes simple enough to handle, lots of bad stuff is bound to happen in the heat of the moment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

Cop who puts 14 bullets into a fleeing car to make sure it stops isn’t playing abuse of power, he’s in the heat of the moment.

If the cop is in a residential area, doing so makes them a bigger danger to the public that the fleeing car driver. Sometime you have to let the crooks get away from you because trying to stop them would endanger innocent people.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

Cop who puts 14 bullets into a fleeing car to make sure it stops isn’t playing abuse of power, he’s in the heat of the moment.

Really? What about those cops that were under cover that mistook a car with a stolen one and fired several shots injuring a baby that was inside? The father was terrified and hit the accelerator to protect his TWO SMALL KIDS and his wife. Heat of the moment does NOT justify their actions. And you are a pathetic moron.

But that abuse of power would be more as padpaw calls it, the “random beating of people to death” which seems remarkably rare.

One time is one time too many for such occurrences. And it’s double damning that those who did it weren’t severely punished with jail for murder.

Mixing situations together to create a sort of FUD and general mistrust creates it’s own problem, one that cannot be resolved by “they must be more responsible” alone.

Nobody is mixing situations. Facts are plain an cold that the police is too militarized and the abuse of power is rampant and unpunished. Unless of course you are talking about your own Neverland and not the US.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

“Cop who puts 14 bullets into a fleeing car to make sure it stops isn’t playing abuse of power, he’s in the heat of the moment.”

And either way, the cop’s behavior can properly be criticized. We give cops an incredible amount of power and authority. If they can’t handle it appropriately — in the heat of the moment or not — then they need to stop being cops.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

“it’s easy as hell to paint everything as an abuse of power. But that abuse of power would be more as padpaw calls it, the “random beating of people to death” which seems remarkably rare.”

I can guarantee you that the time a cop gets you down on the ground and is beating your ass over nothing you did wrong, it will be 100% un-rare and you will be singing a different tune, IF you survive.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

Cop who puts 14 bullets into a fleeing car to make sure it stops isn’t playing abuse of power, he’s in the heat of the moment.

This is the worst excuse ever. Police officers are supposed to be trained to handle life-threatening situations and react responsibly. If that training is not working, we need to do a better job of training them or select better candidates.

Law enforcement officers are supposed to be able to handle these situations. That is why they are allowed to have some of the weapons and equipment the rest of the population is not allowed to have. If you believe they should be held to the same “heat of the moment” standards that everyone else is held to, they should also not be able to carry firearms that regular citizens cannot carry or drive faster than the posted speed limits – because these things can be dangerous if you don’t know how to handle them.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: back seat driving?

Yet they are human like the rest of us. Even with all the training in the world, it comes down to a split second, often adrenaline fueled reaction, at a peak moment of the most basic fight or flight situation, and you are upset because they perhaps erred slightly onto the side of protecting their own hide?

A cop should err to the side of protecting the public. When they sign up for the job they are agreeing to put public safety before his personal safety.

You know what? It takes two to play that game. There are not cops driving around randomly shoot black guys drive by style. They aren’t just randomly picking them out, putting them against a tree, and taking them out. Get over it already.

Bullshit. It’s clear that the cops target much more blacks, Hispanics and so on than whites themselves. Must be weird living a fact-free life eh?

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 back seat driving?

It’s clear that the cops target much more blacks, Hispanics and so on than whites themselves.

Have you considered that there is something in the actions and moral stands of certain groups that are more likely to put them at odds with the law?

Do you honestly think they target by skin color and not by the amount of criminal activity in an area, the amount of gang activity, and the like?

http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Ferguson-Missouri.html

Go have a look… police don’t make up murder rates and property crime rates… especially pay attention to the other areas around Ferguson…

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

Have you considered that there is something in the actions and moral stands of certain groups that are more likely to put them at odds with the law?

No. Last time I checked the statistics whites actually are involved in more crimes than blacks. But that could be different in the US of course. The interesting part is that even official statistics are biased: since the police focuses on these groups the crimes the other group commit may go unregistered.

Do you honestly think they target by skin color and not by the amount of criminal activity in an area, the amount of gang activity, and the like?

I don’t believe, facts tell they do.

Go have a look… police don’t make up murder rates and property crime rates… especially pay attention to the other areas around Ferguson…

Oh good, let us base our judgment on places that are poor, where police regularly gives a damn to laws and the constitution and the majority is of the targeted group. Go back to statistics class, you seem to suck at it. A much better approach would be to get well policed (without cops ostensibly targeting a determined group), structured neighborhoods where the number of residents is well distributed shall we? I have this feeling we won’t find it.

Also, your bigotry is showing. Though, in all fairness, you don’t seem to notice it is bigotry.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 back seat driving?

But that could be different in the US of course.

Since we are talking about the US here, it would be relevent. You may want to go look at the stats, especially when you start looking at certain core areas of the US.

your bigotry is showing.

How is it bigotry to state the truth? Police don’t make up crime. They don’t break into people’s houses and then look for some black guy to pin it on. These are CRIME rates, not arrest rates.

I know it’s hard, but if you are going to sink to insults and name calling, nothing gets done.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 back seat driving?

Police don’t make up crime. They don’t break into people’s houses and then look for some black guy to pin it on. These are CRIME rates, not arrest rates.

You should read more. There are plenty of examples of fabricated crime, warrantless raids or even raids to the wrong residence or for unproven claims. Techdirt alone gave plenty of examples. Stop relying on Fox News alone for your info and maybe you can get your bullshit cured.

I know it’s hard, but if you are going to sink to insults and name calling, nothing gets done.

I’m not really worried about getting anything into your thick, empty skull. But calling out your own bullshit is important to point others to the cold facts.

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 back seat driving?

You talked around it, but let us be clear on your statement.
So you are saying that the reason police kill so many non-white people and poor people is not racism, classism or simple thuggish behavior. The reason is simply that non-whites and poor people are all automatically criminals who can be beaten or killed out of hand.

The police are not a problem, all those poor or black or hispanic so-called “citizens” deserved it. They received the correct and proper treatment in your eyes.
Amazing.
Now, quick, move the goalposts and blame something else!

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: back seat driving?

Yet they are human like the rest of us. Even with all the training in the world, it comes down to a split second, often adrenaline fueled reaction, at a peak moment of the most basic fight or flight situation, and you are upset because they perhaps erred slightly onto the side of protecting their own hide?

Apparently that now includes protecting themselves against the camera crew that was filming their exploits!

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/cops-tv-show-crew-member-killed-by-friendly-fire-20140828-109af6.html

The fact is that us police gun culture is out of control – it is not the individual’s fault – it is a systemic problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: To protect and serve

“…most of us will never face the situations[of a cop]”

Nor any of us are being trained and getting PAID to take the responsability “to protect and serve” and not to “protect themselves first and abuse their position”.

If the risk of such decissions is unacceptable for them always can look for other job as any of us do.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: back seat driving?

Well, none of us is trained or expect to be in life or death situations. If you can’t handle the line of fire then don’t be a cop, simple as that.

So yes, they have a list of less than lethal options, not all of them will work. Deadly force generally works, and when you have only a split second to make the choice, they perhaps are a bit quick to choose to shoot rather than take another choice.

You deploy deadly force when you expect to find the exact same on the other side. Largely unarmed people don’t require such force. Having a split second does not justify shooting. These people should be trained so this split second will be far enough to make a reasonable decision.

Remember though that it all tracks back one step further, which are those people who choose to break the law, choose to ignore police officers, and choose actions which put police in a position to make their lethal choice.

Which is not what is being questioned here. It is being questioned the use of such excessive force when there’s no reason for it. Ferguson is a good example. Raid-happy SWAT teams that aren’t focusing are examples too.

Once again, the police are not the enemy, they are just people like you. You are the cause and the effect.

Precisely why they are fallible. PRecisely why they must be held accountable for abusing their power. Sure they are people like me but I don’t have the sheer amount of power over them that they have over me. With great power comes great responsibility. If I choose to be an Engineer and build a bridge I will be the one to blame if it comes down. If I can’t cope with such pressure to the point I can’t do my job properly then I shouldn’t be an Engineer. Same for doctors, lawyers, politicians.

Stop with this bullshit. The fact that they are people like us just adds more weight to the need to demilitarize and punish bad actors.

Rekrul says:

Re: back seat driving?

Given time, and the luxury of no pressure and no life and death situation in front of us, most of us can come up with a better way to resolve the issues. It’s much harder to make it all happen at the moment, when you have a half a second to react.

So yes, they have a list of less than lethal options, not all of them will work. Deadly force generally works, and when you have only a split second to make the choice, they perhaps are a bit quick to choose to shoot rather than take another choice.

A cop is supposed to enforce the law and protect the public. The first line of their job description isn’t supposed to say “Protect your own life at all costs.”

A cop’s first response to a situation shouldn’t be to pull out their gun and start shooting until they feel the situation is safe enough for them personally. A cop should err on the side of caution and if that means possibly getting shot at rather than ending the life of an innocent person, so be it.

If you don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation, apply the same logic to other situations a cop might encounter;

A cop pulls up to the scene of an accident. A car is on fire and there’s a person unconscious inside it. Should the cop put his own safety first and do nothing while the person burns to death?

A child has fallen into a fast-moving river and is clinging to a rock, but could be swept away at any moment. Should the cop put his own safety first and do nothing while the child drowns?

If you answered no to either of these, please explain to me how a cop shooting someone because the cop felt that they might pose a danger to them, is any different.

Of course that ignores all the cases where cops shot someone to death with absolutely no justification whatsoever.

Like the cop who shot the mentally disturbed guy, who he said lunged at him with a knife and who the video later showed was shot from about 20 feet away while he was standing perfectly still.

Or the homeless guy in New Mexico who was shot by police from about 10-20 feet away while his back was to them.

Or the mentally disturbed man shot to death in his family’s house. He was in the bathroom with a knife, threatening to hurt himself, police were called, they kicked the door in and after a lot of screaming, he started to come out. The cops not only shot him as he came through the door, they stood over him and emptied their guns into him after he was down.

Or the innocent black man who was shot in the driveway of his own home, while looking in his car for something late at night. Police pulled up, screamed for him to get down, he turned to look at who was yelling at him and they opened fire. He only lived because he dove into the car for protection while the cops all emptied their guns.

Or the guy who was working on his own car in his own garage when the police walked in and shot him. Not only did they have no reason to shoot him, they didn’t even bother to see if he was alive or call for an ambulance until they heard him talking on the phone to his mother and telling her that he’d been shot. Once they realized that they couldn’t just cover it up, they called for the paramedics.

In this country it’s become SOP for the police to shoot first, then shoot again, then shoot some more, then when they’re sure the person is dead, make something up and hope nobody asks any questions.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: back seat driving?

…and then you can list out the thousands of interactions police have where they arrest violent people without shooting, where people are saving from violent criminals, and the literally millions of police interactions with the public that go perfectly each year.

Then you can have a discussion.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: back seat driving?

Oh yeah, let’s wait until the majority of the interactions go wrong to acknowledge a problem exists, makes perfect sense. I wonder if your bank start screwing your transactions, what’s a good percentage you believe it’s good before complaining?

You aren’t interested in a discussion, you just want to spew your own rosy opinion devoid of any factual evidence.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re: back seat driving?

…and then you can list out the thousands of interactions police have where they arrest violent people without shooting, where people are saving from violent criminals, and the literally millions of police interactions with the public that go perfectly each year.

A man with Down Syndrome was killed by police in a movie theater. When the movie was over, he refused to leave his seat because that’s what he’d been taught to do. He was waiting for his caregiver. The cops were called and even though the caregiver showed up and begged them to let her calm him down, they pulled him out of the seat, threw him to the ground and piled on him of him until he suffocated.

A SWAT team raided a house on an informant’s tip that he’d bought $50 worth of drugs from someone at that address. They bashed in the door and threw in a flash-bang grenade that landed in a baby’s crib and exploded next to his face. During the raid, the cops wouldn’t even let the mother check on her son. He was put into a medical coma and is still recovering. Not only were no drugs found, the person the snitch claimed to have bought drug from, had never been there. The city then refused to pay the family’s medical bills.

A cop visiting a school as part of a meet-the-police event asked a bunch of young students if they’d like to wash his car. When one boy refused, the cop tasered him.

Cops shot a man to death for sitting on his friend’s porch, holding a pistol-grip hose nozzle.

A handcuffed woman in a police station was being loud and annoying. A cop comes in and turns off the surveillance camera. When he turns out back on, the woman is on the floor with a bloody face. He claims that she fell.

Police in New Mexico gave two different people hours-long, humiliating searches and forced medical procedures (enemas, x-rays, etc) because they said they thought they might have drugs hidden in their rectums. No drugs were found in either case.

Two black men in a car are followed by the police. They pull into a fast food place, and the cop pulls in as well. As they walk into the restaurant, they’re talking and joking with each other. The cops follow them in and accuse them of having said something derogatory about them. The men deny it, but the cop shoves one of them up against the counter. The man makes an instinctual move to brush the cop’s hands away, which serves as all the justification the cop needs to beat the hell out of him and charge him with assaulting a cop. Note that even if the man did insult the cops, that’s not a crime.

A cop pulls over an ambulance with a patient in the back so that he can chew out the driver for not giving him the proper respect on the road. Family members get involved and try to tell the cop that their loved one needs to get to the hospital and the cop just gets more pissed off until the whole thing escalates.

Want more?

Oh, let me know if you need links for any of these. I would have posted them, but adding too many links trips this site’s spam filter.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Context time

… and then you can go over here and try to explain the stories of the 29 officers shot to death this year:

Down by 9(from 38) from 2012(latest statistics I could find with a quick search), with the total fatal injuries, both from ‘Shooting or other person-intentional'(to be shorted to SoPI for ease of typing/reading) and not, clocking in at 105 total fatalities that year for police.

Meanwhile, that same year…

‘Retail sales workers’ suffered 37 fatalities via SoPI(65 fatalities total, so a death on the job has an over 50% chance of being due to a SoPI, higher than police).

‘Miscellaneous agricultural workers’ suffered 146 fatalities.

‘Construction trade workers’ suffered 604 fatal injuries.

‘Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers’ suffered 695 fatal injuries.

‘Taxi drivers and chauffeurs’ suffered 28 SoPI out of 50 fatalities total, again, higher odds than police.

105 fatalities, 38 of which from SoPI sounds downright safe compared to any number of other, much more dangerous professions, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t see that statistic as that impressive, or a valid excuse to justify or ignore the actions of trigger happy cops.

Source:
http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0273.pdf

OldGeezer (profile) says:

OK, maybe you could justify shooting the driver although there are certainly better options. Did they try spike strips or maybe a pit maneuver? Did they try to shoot out his tires or radiator?

My question is why did the passenger have to die? Did he have a weapon? He probably spent the whole chase pleading with the driver to stop. Last I heard it is not a crime to ride in a car with an idiot.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re:

OK, maybe you could justify shooting the driver although there are certainly better options. Did they try spike strips or maybe a pit maneuver? Did they try to shoot out his tires or radiator?

My question is why did the passenger have to die? Did he have a weapon? He probably spent the whole chase pleading with the driver to stop. Last I heard it is not a crime to ride in a car with an idiot.

During the chase, the driver rammed police cars. That was what signed his death sentence. Intentionally, or even unintentionally, try to hurt a cop and you’re going to die for it, whether there’s any legal justification or not.

I can’t find it now, but there was a video on YouTube of a high-speed chase on the highway. At one point a cop unrolls a spike strip in the path of the SUV and the driver swerves to avoid it. The only clear way around it was the side the cop was on, so whether it was intentional or not, it looked like the driver tried to run down the cop. I’m not sure if he hit the cop’s leg or not. In any case, the chase ends on a ramp when the driver rolls the SUV and is thrown out. He is clearly shown lying on the side of the road, face down, not moving. 2-3 cops run up and start punching the guy. Besides the fact that he wasn’t moving and was no longer a danger to anyone, he could have had a broken neck. What the cops did could have potentially killed the guy. All because they thought he tried to run down a cop.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Regardless of his intention, if he was ramming the cop cars there was considerable risk he could cause a fatal accident. On crime shows you often see someone pointing a gun at the cops and someone bravely talks them into surrendering. That’s bullshit. Point a gun at a cop and you will be shot no matter whether you intend to pull the trigger or not.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Cop points a gun at you on the other hand, and there’s nothing wrong with it(from their point of view), and somehow people are supposed to see and treat that as something other than a ‘I will shoot you’ threat.

And of course it goes without saying, trying to defend yourself from someone pointing a gun at you, as long as they have a badge, is completely unacceptable, especially if that defense involves trying to escape or someone get the gun away from them. No such thing as ‘self defense’ or ‘fearing for your life’ when the gun’s being held by a cop after all. /s

John Cressman (profile) says:

OMG!

Give the Wilson/Brown issue a rest. A 300 lb 6′ 4″ thug robbed a store, then beat a cop while trying to get his gun, the thug then rushed the cop who had a drawn gun on him… the cop, with a broken eye socket fired until the thug stopped rushing him.

I hate police brutality as much as the next person, but this was a drugged up thug who assaulted a cop and then went back to finish the job – according to NUMEROUS real accounts – not the ramblings of his partner and crime and a person who has his own warrant for arrest.

If ANYONE thinks a 6′ 4″ 300 lb man running at you after already pummeling you hard enough to break your eye socket isn’t a life threatening situation – you’re a nut job!

I regret the loss of life, but Brown brought that on himself.

Enuf already with trying to make a thug into a martyr!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: OMG!

Give the Wilson/Brown issue a rest. A 300 lb 6′ 4″ thug robbed a store, then beat a cop while trying to get his gun, the thug then rushed the cop who had a drawn gun on him… the cop, with a broken eye socket fired until the thug stopped rushing him.

You do know that the whole “broken eye socket” thing was later shown to be a fabrication, repeated by Fox News, but shown to be false. Kind of undermines basically the rest of what you said.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: OMG!

You do know that the whole “broken eye socket” thing was later shown to be a fabrication

That’s not the only fabrication. The surveillance video shows the person PAYING FOR the cigars:
http://pullingtotheleft.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/surveillance-video-appears-to-show-michael-brown-paying-for-cigars/

Not only that, but the store owner has doubts that it was even Brown:
http://countercurrentnews.com/2014/08/ferguson-store-owner-says-he-doesnt-believe-thats-mike-brown-on-surveillance-video/

Furthermore, not one actual eyewitness said that Brown “beat a cop while trying to get his gun.” Most say Brown was struggling to get away, and that the officer had already drawn his gun.

And the autopsy does not support the conclusion that Brown “rushed the cop who had a gun drawn on him” (though it doesn’t entirely rule it out either). Even if he was, the shooting was unjustified: “In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times,'” said Dr. Baden, who retired from the state police in 2011.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/us/michael-brown-autopsy-shows-he-was-shot-at-least-6-times.html

And, of course, describing Brown as a “thug” just shows a pre-disposition against Brown, and the willingness to believe the party line. It’s no more than an ad hominem designed to portray the victim as a perpetrator.

So, basically, everything you said was wrong. It’s extremely likely that you heard these falsehoods from right-wing media, and simply didn’t check the facts.

It just goes to show that the last thing that anyone should do is “give the Wilson/Brown issue a rest.”

Anonymous Coward says:

“You have the right to remain silent.(just lay there and bleed to death) Anything you say can and will be used against you(you won’t make it there) in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney(though you won’t be needing one dead people can’t talk). If you cannot afford an ̶a̶t̶t̶o̶r̶n̶e̶y̶ priest, one will be appointed to you.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: When cops do good....otherwise known as Cushing's krypronite

…and what does the fact that there are good cops (I assume that those good cops don’t protect the bad ones?) have to do with the fact that there are bad cops?

You seem to be implying that nobody should call out the bad cops simply because good ones exist. That’s crazy talk. If the bad cops aren’t called out, then we’ll have bad cops forever. It’s clear that the police departments don’t mind when cops act like criminals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: When cops do good....otherwise known as Cushing's krypronite

Did you ever stop to think that in every profession there is a bad apple? But to just point out every bad thing that they do, and never look at what the good ones doe, just make it sound like that every cop is out to commit a crime. Is it wrong to point out good things to? Or is it only news when it’s something wrong?

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re: When cops do good....otherwise known as Cushing's krypronite

Did you ever stop to think that in every profession there is a bad apple?

Yes. In most professions, people get fired or sued. People are held accountable. They aren’t completely shielded from responsibility by everyone in the establishment that could hold them accountable.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: When cops do good....otherwise known as Cushing's krypronite

What Jedidiah said.

“make it sound like that every cop is out to commit a crime.”

The police could easily eliminate the need to publicly call out bad cop behavior if they started taking care of the problem themselves instead of protecting and defending the bad cops.

It doesn’t matter if only a minority of cops behave badly when the police refuse to hold those cops accountable, and even harass or attack people who do try to hold them accountable. While that’s happening, then it’s reasonable to view all cops with a jaundiced eye.

“Is it wrong to point out good things to?”

No, it’s not wrong. It’s just irrelevant.

Orion Martin (profile) says:

Police Accountability App Featured on CopBlock.org

CopBlock.org just posted an article about a campaign for a new app which addresses the central accountability issue brought up in this TechDirt article. Check it out:

http://www.copblock.org/66089/crowdfunding-campaign-for-new-anti-police-state-app/

When the app is activated it does three things:
a) turns on the audio and video recording devices on the user’s smartphone and begins streaming the data to a secure server.
b)initiates a video call to a nationwide attorney network so that within a few seconds the user is being represented by an attorney who will interact with the police officer on the app user’s behalf.
c)for user’s who want their police encounter made public, the audio/video will also be streamed to a live website where anyone can watch police encounters across the country happening in real-time and comment on them.

Here’s the campaign’s YouTube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjwnNsGwFTI

And here’s their campaign page:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sidekik-real-time-representation-and-data-storage#home

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