Tag Archives: police

Accountability, “Jackie,” and the University Of Virginia Fraternity Libel

"Jackie"

“Jackie”

There are times when I feel like the ultra-conservative Senator Keeley played by Gene Hackman in “The Bird Cage,” when he’s just learned that his daughter’s future in-laws are a gay couple, that his future son-in-law has two mothers, and the middle-aged woman he had been flirting with all evening is a gay man. Literally nothing makes sense to him any more, and he says, plaintively, “I feel like I’m insane.”

The New York Times report on the police investigation into Rolling Stone’s false story about a horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity made me feel like this. It made no sense to me whatsoever.

“After a review of records and roughly 70 interviews,” the story said, “Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said at a crowded news conference here, his investigators found “no evidence” that a party even took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, when the rape was said to have occurred. Instead, he said, there was a formal that night at the house’s sister sorority, making it highly unlikely that the fraternity would have had a party on the same night.Despite “numerous attempts,” he said, his officers were unable to track down the man Jackie had identified as her date that night. And several interviews contradicted her version of events.”

But wait, there’s more:

During the course of the ensuing police investigation, the chief said, investigators interviewed nine of the 14 members who were living at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012; none said they knew Jackie. The authorities also sent questionnaires to other fraternity members; 19 were returned, and none of the respondents said they knew Jackie or had any knowledge of an assault having occurred at the fraternity house. A review of bank records for the fraternity revealed no expenditures for a party. The police also found a photograph time-stamped Sept. 28, 2012. It showed two men in an otherwise empty entrance hall, the chief said.Investigators also interviewed two of Jackie’s friends, both men, whom Jackie had said met with her after the assault occurred. But both contradicted her version of events, the chief said, adding, “They don’t recall any physical injuries.” And while both said they were told by Jackie that she had gone out on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, with a person named Haven Monahan — identified in the Rolling Stone article as “Drew” — the police were unable to track Mr. Monahan down.

Meanwhile, we are told, “Jackie” refuses to cooperate with the investigation in any way. Continue reading

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Protest Slogan Ethics, Lies As Enlightenment, And “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”

Witness 128...

Witness 128…

Today’s Washington Post Fact Checker column finally weighs in on whether of not “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” is a lie.  I won’t keep you in suspense: Of course it is.

As I had no ideological reason to pretend that it was otherwise, I identified the phrase as such last November. Since then, it has been wielded by athletes, journalists, members of Congress, protesters, talking heads, professional athletes, and pop stars, while contributing to getting some police officers shot. There was no need for this verdict to take so long. “Better late than never,” you say? How about better responsibly on time, as in when the facts were available to anyone with the integrity to reject a useful catch-phrase that was without basis in fact?

For some reason this is not the regular Post Fact Checker. Maybe Glenn Kessler, a partisan who makes a reasonable  effort to overcome his biases, couldn’t get around them this time, or is sick or dead or something. This Fact Checker is Michelle Ye Hee Lee, and she hardly leaves any room for doubt as she lays the blame for the whole scam squarely on the head of the late Mike Brown’s pal, Dorian Johnson, a.k.a. Witness 128. To be fair, “Hands Up” was not a lie for those who used it profligately after Johnson’s false accounts, for they sincerely, if recklessly and negligently, believed it to be true. This was Johnson’s lie, and though it was obviously self-serving, and though he was as unreliable a source as it was possible to be, confirmation bias allowed all of these good people—well, some of them are good—-beginning with Brown’s parents, to accept it as truth. It was easier for them to believe that white police officers gun down unarmed, gentle giants in the street for no reason other than their color than to question the word of Brown’s scuzzy, criminal friend. Continue reading

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Extreme And Deluded Doesn’t Mean “Dangerous”…Or Is The Real Threat Something Else?

Texas-Police

The Republic of Texas, as an intriguing  YouTube documentary explains, is a small separatist group in the Lone Star State that maintains its own quixotic mini-government, including official currency, a president, a legislative body and even “courts.” Its senators and president gathered in the center of a Bryan, Texas, meeting hall, surrounded by curious or sympathetic onlookers, to debate issues of the national currency, develop international relations and celebrate the birthday of one of their oldest members. Suddenly one of the onlookers stood opened the hall door, letting in an armed force including the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, Agents of the Texas District Attorney, the Texas Rangers and the FBI. It was a raid. The twenty  officers rounded up, searched and fingerprinted all 60 meeting attendees, and seized all cellphones and recording equipment.

What triggered such a frightening show of force? It was an elephant gun-flea response to the fact that the Republic of Texas had issued a “summons” to a Kerr County judge and another to a bank employee, ordering them to appear in the Republic’s court at the Veterans and Foreign Wars building in Bryan the day very the officers burst in on the group’s “congress.”

“You can’t just let people go around filing false documents to judges trying to make them appear in front of courts that aren’t even real courts,” Kerr County sheriff Rusty Hierholzer told the media. Ah. Some deluded club members engage in overreach while pretending that they have founded a new government rather than an eccentric social group–sending a bogus but sincere summons is a misdemeanor at worst—and this is seen as just cause for an armed raid? Hierholzer said he needed an army to serve a search warrant for suspicions of a misdemeanor, because there was a 1997 incident where 300 state troopers had an stand-off with well-fortified Republic of Texas leader with mayhem on his mind.

I have no sympathy with secessionists, militias, or other such groups. They are, however, engaged in the grand American tradition of opposing authority, complaining about the state of the nation, and gathering with others of a like mind to see if they can fix what’s wrong. The government putting a police-state scare into such groups, showing contempt for them and treating them like terrorist cells is un-American, in contrast. It’s harassment, and an attempt to discourage lawful dissent and to chill Constitutional rights. Continue reading

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The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2014

abstract door grand jury room

The Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics 2014—sorry for the tardiness— are about 30% of the length of the Worst. Does this mean that the nation and the culture, not to mention the world, are doomed?

Not necessarily. I am well aware that most of the country is ethical, substantially fair and honest, diligent, and embodies ethical values in their every day dealings with you and me, and the world. We primarily hear, and to some extent, take note of, the corrupt, the irresponsible, the manipulative, the untrustworthy and the foolish. The Best Ethics list is smaller in part because only exemplary ethics gets publicity. I also should note that calling attention to unethical conduct and discussing it often does more to advance the mission of Ethics Alarms than confirming that right is right, though I sure wish there was more exemplary ethics to celebrate. Maybe the dearth of award winners here is my fault, and the result of my biases.

Boy, I hope so.

Here are the 2014 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The Ferguson grand jury resisted public and media pressure to deliver a verdict of no indictment against police officer Darren Wilson, upholding the integrity of the justice system despite the injection of emotion, politics and race into a tragic incident where none of these belonged. Though the available evidence could never have supported a guilty verdict, it would have been easy and popular for the grand jury to make Wilson stand trial anyway, just as George Zimmerman did. Their reward has been to be attacked as fools and racists, but they did the right thing, when the wrong thing must have seemed very attractive.

Outstanding Ethical Leadership

The New York Yankees. (Bear with me now.) The Yankees are the most famous team in professional sports in the biggest sports market in the world. They make money without even trying. Yet when the team had a bad year and missed the play-offs in 2013, it committed nearly a billion dollars to re-building the team, a move that only makes sense in the quest to win games, not to maximize profit. Thus they prominently chose loyalty, mission and sportsmanship over greed. (The Yankees still missed the play-offs in 2014, too.) Then all year long the team placed a spotlight on Derek Jeter, their retiring hero, whose career and character single-handedly refutes the cynicism of sports critics fed up with the lack of character displayed by the Armstrongs, the Rices, the ARods, the Belichicks, the Winstons, the Paternos, and so many, many others. Finally, when two New York City police officers were assassinated after Al Sharpton, and the “Hands Up!” protestors, with the city’s own mayor’s support, had vilified the profession as violent, racist and untrustworthy, who will pay for the fallen officers’ children to go to college? The New York Yankees’ Silver Shield Foundation.  Add charity, compassion, civic duty and gratitude to the list of ethics values the New Your baseball club modeled for us. I know it seems odd and even trivial to follow up last year’s winner in this category—the Pope— with a sports franchise, but to paraphrase Babe Ruth’s famous rejoinder when the Yankees balked at his salary demands in 1930, saying he wanted to be paid more than then-President Herbert Hoover (“I had a better year that Hoover!”), the Yankees has a better year than the Pope.

Outstanding Sportsmanship

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros secondbaseman and American League batting champ….the right way. He began the final day of the 2014 season hitting .340, three points ahead of the Tigers’ Victor Martinez. If Altuve didn’t play in Houston’s meaningless last game, Martinez would have to go 3-for-3 to pass him, giving the DH a narrow .3407 average compared with Altuve’s .3399. By playing, Altuve risked lowering his average, providing Martinez with a better chance of winning the batting championship. Many players in the past have sat out their final game or games to “back in” to the prize, rather than give the fans a chance to watch a head to head battle injecting some much-needed drama into the expiring season.  Altuve, however, gave Martinez his shot. He played the whole game, had two hits in his four at-bats, and won the American League batting title on the field, not on the bench, as Martinez went hitless. The conduct, simple as it was, embodied fairness, integrity, courage, respect for an opponent, and most of all, respect for the game.

Best Apology

JESSICA_URBINA

 The Level #1 apology, according to the Ethics Alarms Apology scale, issued by Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco.The school had cruelly and needless embarrassed graduating senior Jessica Urbina (above), rejecting her inclusion in the yearbook because she chose to be photographed in a tuxedo rather than a dress, as the school’s dress code, which had not been previously made clear, demanded. I wrote…

“The rule is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong. The best way to change a rule that is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong is to break it, and see if those in charge have the sense and compassion to do the right thing. The administrators of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School flunked. I doubt that Jessica was even trying to provoke a confrontation: like any normal student, she wanted her image in the most important piece of memorabilia of her high school years to accurately portray her as she was, not as some alien ideal dictated by the Catholic Church. There was nothing to be achieved by banning the photo.”

The school reversed itself with grace and compassion. The apology is long, but a more humble or complete one would be unachievable. It achieved an ethical end to an ugly episode. You can read it here. Runner up: Writer Henry Rollins lovely and wrenching apology for his initial reaction to Robin Williams’ suicide.

Hero of the Year

Michael DeBeyer.  De Beyer has decided to sell his restaurant, which he opened more than 15 years ago and is worth an estimated  $2 million, to pay for whatever medical treatments are necessary to save the life of Brittany Mathis, 19. Brittany works for De Beyer at his Kaiserhof Restaurant and Biergarten in Montgomery, Texas, and  learned, in December 2013, that she has a 1.5 inch brain tumor.  She couldn’t afford the operation to find out whether the tumor was benign or malignant, and didn’t have health insurance. “I couldn’t live with myself; I would never be happy just earning money from my restaurant knowing that she needs help,” Michael told local reporters.

That’s what makes ethics heroes; really, really loud ethics alarms, combined with courage and caring.

Parent of the Year

NBA Star Kevin Durant’s Mom.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Matthew McConaughey. In a field notably sparse on exemplary ethics by celebrities, the 2013 Oscar winner for Best Actor stands out for a speech that was inspirational, thoughtful, and rife with ethics wisdom. It is worth recalling. Here it is:

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this—all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.

There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. ‘Cause that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

To my family, that who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers… demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.

And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.” To that I say “just keep living.” Thank you.

Most Principled Politician

Thomas Menino

The late Thomas Menino, Boston’s beloved Democratic mayor for two decades (the longest in tenure in the city’s history), who retired last January and  died of cancer nine months later. Somehow I missed giving him the ethics send-off he deserved. Amazingly, he was the first Italian-American mayor in Boston’s history: the job has always been won by the city’s Irish machine. While mayors around the nation were embroiled in scandals and embarrassments, Menino undeniably improved the city, led it admirably in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and left office with the admiration of conservatives as well as liberals despite being an aggressive agent of progressive policies.  His passion caused him to make some ethical missteps, such as joining other liberal mayors in telling Chick-Fil-A that it “wasn’t welcome” in Boston because of its owner’s anti-gay marriage sentiments. He joined Michael Bloomberg in creating Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and must share responsibility for some of the dubious tactics and misrepresentations of that organization. He also had a scandal or two involving political favors, but in 20 years, by my count, he had fewer than most Boston mayors had every year. In 2012, polls found that he had an approval rating over 80%, and left his position more popular than he entered it.  Boston is liberal, but it isn’t that liberal.

Most Ethical Company

Don’t ever let me do that again.

I just reviewed over a hundred posts about businesses and corporations from last year, and not one of them celebrated ethical conduct. The closest was, believe it or not, the Washington Redskins, for having the guts, orneriness and principles to stand against the forces of censorship and political correctness to refuse to change the name of their team and organization. It has been targeted as a symbolic scalp that race-baiters, grievance-hucksters and progressive bullies are determined to have hanging from their belts; the opponents of the team have recruited the U.S. government, and the pressure is tremendous. It would be so easy to change the name now, when support for the perpetually rotten team is at low ebb in Washington, D.C., but the principle is worth the battle. However, my gag reflex will not allow me to give this award to an NFL team, since by definition it must be engaged in so much else that is wrong.

So for a second straight year I’m going to send you to Ethisphere’s list of the most ethical companies in the world. Their criteria isn’t mine, but there’s got to be a genuinely ethical company of two on there somewhere. Let me know if you find it. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On Charles Blow’s “At Yale, the Police Detained My Son”

The esteemed columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it's important for the elite to teach their kids "Do you know who I am?" at a young age.

The esteemed NYT columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it’s important for the elite to teach their kids the phrase “Do you know who I am?” at a young age.

Charles Blow is a talented info-graphic op-ed columnist for the New York Times. he is also and African American who repeatedly pushes the narrative that the U.S. is a racist society hostile to blacks and black men in particular. Afew days ago, he authored an accusatory op-ed piece after his son, a Yale student, was detained at gunpoint by a campus police officer. Apparently Young Blow fit the description of a campus burglar, and was subjected to the indignity of being forced to the ground, identifying himself, and answering questions. Blow immediately decided to use his position of prominence with the Times to air a family grievance. Announcing that he was “fuming,” Blow questioned the officer’s procedure—

“Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first? What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.”

…and then concluded thusly:

“I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look. There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.”

“What you’ve done matters less than how you look.” Charles Blow is nearly engaging in code here, but his meaning is clear. His son was treated prejudicially because of the color of his skin. His son, the accomplished, Ivy League-going offspring of a distinguished journalist was treated like a criminal—how dare they!— because of how he looked, because he was black. “Some would choose to deny it” —you know: racists, conservatives, whites, Republicans—but “all of our boys are bound together.” Translation: we all look the same to racist white cops.
Continue reading

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The Anti-De Blasio

No de Blasio he!

No de Blasio he!

The mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of besieged New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He sent this letter to his police:

Letter racebaitingIts substance reads…

“I feel compelled to express my thoughts in writing as police officers across the country are under attack by race baiting black leaders and cowardly elected officials. Now is the time to be extra cautious while performing your duties. Back each other and take nothing for granted. Let it be known that, God forbid, something controversial would happen, I WILL NOT ABANDON YOU. As I have always said, your number one goal is to go home to your family after your shift…”

 

Now, instead of being under fire from his own police like his Big Apple counterpart, Williams’ declaration of support for his own police is being called “appalling” and racist. Bishop Bobby Hilton, president of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter National Action Network, released a statement saying,

“It is appalling that Mayor Thomas Williams would stoop so low as to call black leaders “Race Baiters”.  It is unfortunate he has a problem with blacks and citizens of every group demanding full and fair investigations of the killings of unarmed black men.

“I strongly suggest that blacks stay out of Norwood.  Do not shop there. When a Mayor feels the only way he can encourage and show support for his police department is by making disparaging remarks about black leaders, it is time to stay away for your own safety.”

Jasmine Coaston-Foree, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, demanded, “We want a public apology. We want him to retract the inflammatory statement. The letter was irresponsible for someone in his position given the events that have happened recently.”

For his part, the Mayor, a Democrat, is not backing down. “It’s one of those things where everybody knows, or most people know or can see what’s going on, but they won’t say it,” Williams said. “And there are individuals across the country who earn a living or raise funds by getting involved in something before any of the facts are known. (People) who come in, raise doubt, raise issues, when they don’t know the facts and then they leave. That’s a fact.”

What’s going on here? Continue reading

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Ethics Poll: Target Practice For The North Miami Police

mug shot targets

From the BBC:

[P]olice officers have been…using mug shots of black suspects for target practice in Florida. The images used by North Miami Beach Police were discovered by a female soldier who used the firing range after a police training session…Police Chief J Scott Dennis said that his officers had used poor judgment but denied racial profiling.He told NBC that using real suspect images was an important part of training for his sniper team and that his officers had not violated any policies.

“There is no discipline forthcoming from the individuals who were involved with this,” he said.

A police spokeswoman added on Friday that officers use targets of all races and genders in their training sessions.

Embarrassing. A public relations nightmare for the department. But was using the mugshots unethical? Why?

Let’s vote:

 

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