Tag Archives: police

Comment of the Day: “Mid-EthicsTrainwreck Observations On Ferguson”

China Protest

How much fire power should a democracy’s police forces have at their disposal? Is the trend toward militarization in urban police departments an inherent threat to our liberty? These are interesting topics, and issues with public policy as well as ethical implications, brought to our attention by the armored vehicles we have seen prowling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

I confess to neglecting these matters on Ethics Alarms, in part because the question of whether a police officer justly and legally shot (six times) and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown has been muddled by too many other considerations already. As a result, I haven’t given the issues much quality thought, other than my usual fascination at the ability of some committed libertarians to take a position dictated by their ideology without being troubled by the obvious practical problems associated with that position, a proclivity I would file under the heading of “Irresponsible.” Also, “Strange.” How can someone advocate virtually unregulated access to increasingly powerful weaponry by citizens—including criminals—and oppose sufficient arms in the hands of the police to protect the public from a misuse of that weaponry? Libertarians (and others) maintain that a prime purpose of the Second Amendment  is to prevent the government from disarming  citizens to dominate and control them. Agreed. But the unfettered freedom of law-abiding citizens to acquire the weapons they feel are necessary for whatever lawful purpose they choose will also result in the same weapons being available to those with less savory objectives in mind. I understand that the opposition to a police force armed to the teeth springs from either a distrust of government generally (libertarians and anarchists) or police specifically , especially by a segment of the population, African-Americans, who are otherwise favorably inclined toward a large, intrusive government—a contradiction as striking as that offered by the libertarian position, but understandable for those who live under the threatening authority of the Killer Klown act known as the Ferguson Police Department.

Fortunately, texagg04, a distinguished Ethics Alarms regular, has been inspired to delve into some of these questions, and others, in a superb post, the Comment of the Day, on the essay Mid-EthicsTrain Wreck Observations On Ferguson. Here it is: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Wishing Ethics: What Should We WANT The Outcome To Be In Ferguson?

finger-crossed

The simple answer to the question in the headline is: we should all want the truth to come out, whatever it is, and be dealt with honestly and justly. I don’t think that result is possible, unfortunately, just as it proved impossible in the Martin-Zimmerman tragedy.If the truth could be determined, however…if an experimental, advanced video recorder just happened to capture everything that occurred between Officer Wilson and Mike Brown, including in the squad car; if it captured the incident from all angles, and we could hear and see everything that transpired between them, what would we want that to be, recognizing that the tragedy cannot be undone?

Would we want it to show that Mike Brown was murdered, that he was fleeing for his life when he escaped the car, then turned, fell to his knees ( as at least one witness claims) and was gunned down with his hands in the air? Obviously many Americans, including Brown’s family, the Ferguson protestors, many African-Americans, civil rights activists, police critics, politicians and pundits, have an interest in seeing this be the final verdict of investigators, for a multitude of reasons. The grieving family wants their son to be proven innocent of any fault in his own death. Others, especially those who prematurely declared Officer Wilson of guilty of “executing” Brown, have a strong interest in being proven right, for even though it would not excuse their unfair and irresponsible rush to judgment, such a determination would greatly reduce the intensity of criticism leveled at them.

[Side Note on Ethics Dunce Jay Nixon: That won't stop the criticism here, however: Whatever the facts prove to be,  Gov. Jay Nixon's comments are indefensible, and inexcusable. Now the Democrat is denying that they meant what he clearly meant to convey: calling for "justice for Brown's family" and a "vigorous prosecution" can only mean charging Wilson, and that is what those calling for Wilson to be arrested took his comments to mean. If the Governor didn't mean that, as he now claims, then he is 1) an ignoramus and 2) beyond incompetent to recklessly comment on an emotion-charged crisis in his state without choosing his words carefully.]

Or should we hope that the facts exonerate Wilson? After all, shouldn’t we want the one living participant in this tragedy to be able to have some semblance of a life without being forever associated with villainy? Certainly his family and friends, as well as member of the Ferguson police force who want their own ranks to be vindicated, and police all over the nation who have had their profession attacked and denigrated in the wake of the shooting, fervently hope that the narrative pushed by the demonstrators is proven wrong. Others want to see Wilson proven innocent for less admirable reasons. They want to use the incident to condemn police critics, and undermine and discredit civil rights advocates, especially long-time ideological foes like Al Sharpton. They want Eric Holder to look biased, (he looks biased anyway, because he appears to be taking sides) and to make the case—one that a single episode neither supports nor can possible rebut—that police do not have itchy trigger fingers when their weapons are pointed at young black men.

From the standpoint of ethics, which means that the best outcome will be the one that does the most good for society, the choice is complex.  Continue reading

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Ethics Train Wrecks Collide, As The Redskins And Trayvon Martin’s Mother Board The Ferguson Express

trains_collision

I just can’t find a photograph of three trains running into each other–in the world of rail transport, that’s impossible.* With Ethics Train Wrecks, however, anything is possible, especially stupid, dishonest, and irresponsible things.

  • The Washington Redskins, one would think, have enough problems guiding their own Ethics Train Wreck, with the team’s owner, who would have been wise, prudent  and responsible to quietly get rid of an archaic name and logo before it became the focus of extreme political correctness bullying, having to battle government censors and opponents of free speech as well as censorious journalists and cynical Native American race-hucksters. But no! Some members of the team apparently feel that if one Ethics Train Wreck is fun, two is twice as nice. Thus it came to pass that during Monday night’s pregame introductions for the televised exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns, several Redskins players ran onto the field with their hands raised as a gesture of support for the slain Ferguson teen, Michael Brown. Brown, writes Yahoo’s Jay Busbee, “was killed by police even after witnesses said he raised his arms and told police he was unarmed. As a result, arms raised in surrender have become a symbol of solidarity and protest in connection with the Ferguson story.” [ Side Note: This is incompetent and biased reporting. Some witnesses say that; others dispute it. No account has been certified as true. Busbee suggests otherwise, and he also can't write worth a damn: How could Brown have been killed by police after witnesses reported how he was killed?]  The idea originated with Washington safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and several players followed their lead.

Wrong, wrong, wrong: Continue reading

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The Protest Ethics Check List And The Ferguson Demonstrations

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

Protests are an American tradition, with protective rights enshrined in the Constitution, and a distinguished legacy that includes the Boston Tea Party and Martin Luther King’s civil rights marches and rallies. They are also perhaps the most misused and abused device in national politics. Most of them are useless, many of them are stupid, and too many of them do tangible harm.

The Obama Administration’s crisis of the hour is the Ethics Trainwreck in Ferguson, Missouri, where a perfect storm arose when an an inept, distrusted and untrustworthy police force and a poor and frustrated African-American population clashed over the Rashomon shooting of an unarmed black teen. Now there are demonstrations every day in Ferguson; several people have been killed, and the demonstrations have spawned rioting and looting.

What is the purpose of all of this? It better be a good one, given its cost, and the protesters better be right. The problem is that the protesters can’t possibly be right at this point, because the facts aren’t known. We are told that the reason for the demonstrations is larger than mere anger over the shooting of Michael Brown; that it’s about police harassment, abuse and violence against African-Americans and their lack of accountability for it. That would only be a sustainable justification if in fact the death of Brown was an unequivocal, clear-cut example of the phenomenon being protested. It is not, not yet, and it may never be. So again the question has to be asked: is it ethical to be protesting in Ferguson at all? Continue reading

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Monday Morning Lessons in News Media Bias, Incompetence, and Manipulation of Public Opinion

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

It took all of 15 minutes this morning to see the incompetence and bias of the new media in action regarding two politically charged events currently unfolding:

1. The Washington Post: The Rick Perry Indictment

On page A3 of the Washington Post front section, this report by Post reporter Sean Sullivan was sub-headlined like this:

Texas governor denies any impropriety in feud with district attorney

Continue reading

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Prediction: The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck

michael-brown-ferguson-shooting

The witness accounts of the death of Mike Brown that have received all of the publicity suggest that the unarmed teen, after being shot in a police cruiser while resisting arrest, bolted from the car and was shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson as he tried to escape, even after the victim stopped and appeared to surrender. This is the account currently on Wikipedia, for example, and even in the absence of a fair and careful investigation, is the account accepted as fact by the “Justice for Mike Brown” protestors.

To those who are convinced that the police are evil, jack-booted racists and that a police officer with no record of equivalent misconduct would shoot down an unarmed and surrendering teen in public, this undoubtedly seems like a plausible scenario.  It sure doesn’t to me. I can see one way it might have happened this way: After Brown, who was huge, hurt and frightened Wilson in the car when they fought, Wilson lost his composure, and fired in rage. If that was the case, then he should be prosecuted for murder. Nothing in even that scenario proves or even suggests racism, but Brown was black and the officer was white, and for too many in the African-American community, that is proof enough.

Now another account has surfaced, on that might support Wilson’s account. It is also more plausible, because it both explains and even justifies the shooting. That account suggests that rather than turning from his flight and surrendering, Brown charged Wilson, placing him in legitimate fear of  bodily harm.

At this point, we have no way of knowing what the truth is. Maybe Wilson executed Brown. Maybe he is a racist. Maybe he is a psychopath. And maybe Brown’s conduct justified the use of deadly force by the officer, and the teen was largely responsible for his own demise. Presumably we will eventually know the truth.

I confidently predict this, however, based on what occurred in the Martin-Zimmerman case: Continue reading

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Ferguson’s “How Dare You Challenge Our Narrative?” Protest

Mike-Brown-Signs

There was another large demonstration in Ferguson last night. This one appears to have been more proportionately and wisely managed by Ferguson police, who still had a bad day that didn’t do much to erase the impression that its leadership is not equipped to deal with the challenges posed by race politics in 21st Century America. The inexplicably delayed information on the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, including the name of the officer involved (who can now count on receiving death threats and having celebrities try to help vigilantes by tweeting his address), “infuriated”  Brown’s family and the African American community in Ferguson, on the theory that video showing Brown robbing a convenience store and assaulting its owner was an attempt to smear the victim of a racist killing, and to “justify” an execution.

It’s an unethical theory, and the news media and fair observers should reject it. Indeed, they have a duty to reject it.

A young man is dead, and that is a tragedy. Another young man, the one who shot him, is also involved, and his life, while not over, is going to be permanently scarred in the best case scenario. If “justice,” the word that the demonstrators in Ferguson and elsewhere are using as a mantra, is being used to mean what it is supposed to mean (and, it is not), then the young police officer deserves justice too. That means, at very least, waiting until all the facts are known that can be known, and making a dispassionate, objective, non-politically motivated analysis of what occurred, who was at fault, what crimes, if any, were committed, and how to prevent such incidents in the future.

Is that too much to ask? To insist upon?

So it seems. Continue reading

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Mid-EthicsTrainwreck Observations On Ferguson

train_wreck

1. This is traveling the identical route as the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman fiasco, and I wonder when the intentional similarity will begin dawning on the public, discrediting the participants and embarrassing the news media, which is as Pavlovian as the most conditioned canine.

2. In an environment where race grievance vultures lie in wait, the usual rule of prudence—an ethical value— for law enforcement becomes a fatal error. Now, if a police department waits and investigates before making an official report or filing charges when a white individual has killed a black one, it will be spun by those seeking to find sinister motives, and the news media will take the cue.

3. As in the Martin case, the victim was immediately portrayed by his family as being as threatening as a Care Bear, except for his race. Martin was introduced to the public by the news media with an old photo that made him look about 12. Michael Brown was introduced by his promising future: he was going to college, and his parents were proud of him, as if these factors are proof of unquestionable virtue and innocence. He was unarmed, and a teenager. But as I learned for the first time by seeing the surveillance video of the alleged robbery, he was a huge teenager. A man that big doesn’t have to be armed to be dangerous. Naturally, all public impressions of the incident were formed before any of this came to light. This also addresses the new outrage by protesters that the video was released to “justify” the killing. The video let us know that Brown wasn’t a harmless kid, and that’s valid information now. Continue reading

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Police Misconduct, Professional Courtesy, and the Insideous Virtue of Loyalty

"No, I still have your back...I'm just going to have to give you a speeding ticket, that's all!"

“No, I still have your back…I’m just going to have to give you a speeding ticket, that’s all!”

In 2011, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Donna Jane Watts pulled over—after a brief chase– an off-duty Miami police officer whose vehicle she clocked at over 120 mph. Lead-footed officer Fausto Lopez explained to Watts that he was late for an off-duty job. The tradition among police, as in other professions (like the law and politics), is to extend “professional courtesy” in such situations, or as I call it, unwarranted privilege and corruption.

 Watts, however, arrested Lopez, who had a history of reckless driving, and he was eventually fired. Continue reading

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Zombie Ethics, Spoiling Things For Everyone, And The Barn Door Fallacy

With so many terrible news stories going on around the world, it is not surprising that a bumper crop of strange and stupid ones this week went almost unnoticed. In Indiana, a truck crashed and spilled 45,000 pounds of butter, whipped cream and other dairy products on an interstate. In the skies, an elderly woman went berserk on an airplane and began beating everyone is sight with her artificial leg. This, however, wins the prize: the annual Comic Con  “Zombie Walk” in San Diego went horribly wrong when a group of rogue zombie portrayers, dressed like rotting corpses and moaning, carried their method acting too far and swarmed a car containing a family with young children—a deaf family with deaf children. Ignoring the obvious alarm and terror on the faces of the car’s occupants, the Walking Dead Wannabes pounded on the car, broke its windshield, and one zombie jumped onto the hood. At that point the driver panicked, and tried to pull away from the crowd, running down a 64-year-old woman who was seriously injured as a result. Continue reading

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