The Brelo Acquittal: Once Again, No Just Cause For Protest

Brelo car

Nobody should doubt that there are too many instances of excessive police force, that racism must playsa factor in many of these episodes, and that prosecutors and juries give police special, and perhaps excessively generous,  consideration when cases of alleged abuse come to trial. The sheer numbers compel that concludion. However, the now routine presumption on the part of civil rights activists, much of the news media and Obama racially-biased Justice Department that every instance where an unarmed African American is killed by a police officer warrants indictment and conviction is as pernicious as racism itself, and threatens the rule of law as well as any semblance of peaceful race relations.

Every incident is not like the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina, where the police officer’s actions were unequivocally homicidal, but the news media seems to blur the lines as much as it can. In the current controversy out of Cleveland, police officer Michael Brelo’s acquittal of murder charges was announced with headlines resembling  Slate’s “Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted for Firing 15 Shots That Killed Unarmed Black Couple,” which makes it sound as if Brelo personally executed the Huxtables while they were taking a Sunday drive. “Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted for Firing 15 Shots out of 137 That Killed Two Mentally-Ill, Homeless Addicts Under The Influence of Drugs Who Fled A Lawful Police Stop And Were Credibly Believed to Have Discharged A Firearm” would have been lengthy, but also would have been fair rather than deceitful.

The acquittal came because there was no way to determine for certain that Brelo’s shots were the ones that killed the couple.  Nor were the Cleveland officers’ presumption that deadly force was necessary unreasonable. Police had been informed that shots had been fired from the car (they turned out to be backfires from the auto), and the driver  had certainly exhibited reckless conduct. Was it necessary for Brelo to jump up on the hood of the car after multiple shots had been fired into it by other officers (the chase involved over 60 police cars)?  Were more shots fired by all concerned than necessary? Maybe and almost certainly, but neither of those facts add up to guilt for the officer, or justification for another “Hand up, Don’t shoot!” protest. Officers didn’t know the occupants of the fleeing car were unarmed, and had reason to think they were armed. They didn’t know they were a “couple,” or African American, or mentally ill.

Never mind; African American protesters are demonstrating, protesting and getting arrested in Cleveland anyway. I doubt that the protestors know the facts of the incident; all that matters is that two blacks were killed by police, and that alone is enough to turn them into Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner…and Walter Scott. Such reflex outrage distracts from the power of protest when real injustice has occurred, or real racism, or actual refusal of a jury to convict when there is sufficient evidence. Drug-impaired schizophrenics who endanger the public by fleeing police in an automobile have plotted their own demise, and no police officer should lose his freedom because a car backfires. No matter how many protests and riots there are, courts and juries still will have to use the principles of justice to determine guilt. All the political pressure generated by such protests will accomplish is occasional unethical prosecutions by prosecutors, like Maryland state’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who don’t have the integrity to ignore the mob.

It is irresponsible and dishonest to force these perfect storms of bad luck, mistakes and dubious decisions under stress into the template of “white officers maliciously shoots unarmed black” for political leverage. It is particularly wrong for the Justice Department to encourage it, as this one has. The urgent need to find some standard by which genuine police misconduct can be identified and punished is neither advanced nor supported by concluding that every time an unarmed African-American dies in an encounter with police, it is a racist murder. The assumption, no matter what the statistics show, must always be the opposite, and the facts of the encounter matter, besides the races of the shooter and the shot. The wrongful actions of police officers elsewhere should never strip an individual officer like Brelo of the recognition of the special peril facing police every day, and the benefit of the doubt.

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Sources: Washington Post 1, 2

18 thoughts on “The Brelo Acquittal: Once Again, No Just Cause For Protest

  1. Which is it?
    “The assumption, no matter what the statistics show, must always be the opposite”
    or
    “the facts of the encounter matter”?

    The two seem contradictory.

    The wrongful actions of police officers elsewhere should never strip an individual officer like Brelo of the recognition of the special peril facing police every day, and the benefit of the doubt.

    While there should be a presumption of innocence, my contention is now that this presumption should now be no stronger when police are involved than when civilians are.

    I consider that to be tragic, double-plus-ungood, bad for police, bad for society, but given the stats, I see no alternative without a change of culture.

    • Why are they contradictory? It is the very epitome of the rebuttable presumption. Wrong: It’s a police officer and a dead balck man, ergo we assume homicide and racism, or It’s a police officer shooting a suspect in the line of duty, and we assume he was acting legally and professionally. Officer Wilson had to be proved not guilty: Charles’ pal Cornel West made the fatuous comment that any time an unarmed man is shot, it’s prima faciemurder. Wrong. Nor is it prima facie racism.

      “but given the stats, I see no alternative without a change of culture.” Are you willing to apply that to profiling and stop and frisk? Because it’s the exact same logic.

  2. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the case, certain sections of the population will always hold to one lone factor as the determiner of “wrong”- and that’s the race of those involved. They’ve been inculcated in the concept virtually from the cradle. Protest, assault, burn, loot and riot… and then riot some more when their welfare checks are late! It must be wonderful to have such high motivations to carry with you through your life.

  3. Look, here’s the deal. Obama and his minions, along with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, have managed to convince the entirety of the black voting block that if a black man dies, armed or unarmed, at the hands of a white man, police or citizen, it’s racism. You can’t really address the ethics involved in this claim, because there are no ethics involved, at least from the standpoint of the politicos involved. This is about winning elections and power to them, not ethics. I, personally, understand “The ends justify the means”, but they apparently do not. When the thugs who are only interested in burning, looting and rapine are added to the mix, you get Baltimore, Cleveland, and, yes, Ferguson. It would be nice if we could dump the assumption that all whites are racist, all the time, but with Sharpton’s profile, that ain’t gonna happen. The only real solution would be for the black population to develop some smarts, but that also ain’t gonna happen…not as long as the “What’s in it for me?” mentality exists. I do not know what the solution to this obvious train wreck is. To say education is the solution is nice, but as long as the black population sees it as “White Mans schools” and sees dug-dealing thuggery and victim-hood as being the way to go, then their self-imposed poverty, unemployment, criminal activity and ghetto-living is going to continue. At one time I had some hope for black mothers who wanted more for their children than what they had, but that hope is apparently not going to happen. Only ONE black mother responded appropriately to her child engaging in thuggery was a bit disheartening. Sadly, the black culture, once one of the most colorful and hopeful of the “melting pot” has turned into one of enforced victimization, and this has led to inner city blacks being the main reason for Detroit.

    Now, having said that, I will also say that I do not for one minute believe that all black people buy into this demagoguery. I actually know many black people, and while I do not count more than a few as my friends, at least one of those friends (who is gay to boot) is a professional person and has promoted himself to be in a position of supervision in the mental health profession. Another is half of a mixed-race couple who happen to be Houston Texans fans…a drinking buddy for Sunday games…she is an advertising executive. So obviously, at least to me, this is NOT a racial issue, but a motivational one. Which would you rather do, deal drugs, pimp a stable, or be a Social Worker, an Executive or a physician (Ben Carson)? That decision is an individual one, and those who elect for Detroit…well, you get what you wish for. Be careful, it may come back to bite you.

  4. Anyone employed as a police officer should have to maintain a high standard of behaviour. If they are unable to do so then they should seek employment elsewhere. A quote from the BBC News stated “Only Mr Brelo was charged because prosecutors said the pair in the car were no longer a threat when he climbed on to the bonnet of their car and fired 15 shots through the windscreen in 7.4 seconds.” If this is correct then by shooting after there was no longer a threat showed that Mr Brelo did not display the degree of self control that a competent officer should use to be employed as a police officer. He should be fired.

    • Lots of those involved in that incident should be fired, Brelo among them. There is a big difference between firing a cop and convicting him of murder. I might march in protest of him not being fired.

      • To add to the trainwreck, I’m betting a lot of people will point to the racial controversy to argue that Brelo and his pals shouldn’t be fired (heck, I’ve met people who argued that SLAGER shouldn’t be tried for shooting Scott, solely because stuff like Ferguson made them overly cynical). And thus an issue (police brutality and misconduct) which should unite the country will divide it even further. A big thanks to everyone involved.

      • There is a big difference between firing a cop and convicting him of murder.

        Indeed there is.

        Did he commit a felony – negligent or reckless discharge of a firearm within city limits perhaps? If even 1 of the 59 shots he fired was unjustifiable, then I think so.(The last 15 were after the gunfire had ended, his third reload).

        In the course of committing a felony, did someone die?

        I think that’s proven, even stipulated.

        Therefore murder in the 2nd degree in at least some states.

        I’m leaving the racial angle out of it, as it’s irrelevant – or should be.

        While it cannot be proven that it was his shots that caused the deaths, if that was a necessity then all gangsters engaged in a fatal gun battle would get off, as long as enough shots were fired.

        • 1. The policy officer cannot commit felony murder unless he has the mens rea for the felony.

          2. Police are trained to shoot until, in their view, the threat is over and the target is down. The alarm over multiple shots, expecially from multiple police officers, is non-rational. Police shoot to kill.

          3. Whether one shot or 50 do the killing is irrelevant. There is no law against bad aim. Jesse Jackson, as an example, argued that Officer Wilson should have tried to “wing” Mike Brown.

          4. Is the theory that more shots is hateful? Racist? Over-kill? My dad said that he saw a lot of soldier killed by guys who were already shot. I don’t get the emphasis on the number of bullets, except as suggesting fear, lack of self control and amateurism.

          • A disagreement with Item 2: Police shoot to stop, not to kill. Sometimes it is difficult to see the difference since the “stop button” on a person often occupies the same space as do organs necessary for life. If a survivable shot or two to the torso stops the attack, but missis the heart or aorta allowing the recipient a chance of survival, then the intended result of the shooting has occurred.

            I have seen a man absorb 10 hits from a .357mag pistol and not lose his feet or abort his assault until he tripped in shrubbery. No, he did not survive that event, but his death was not the intent of the shooting.

            In the street, it is not over until its over. Sadly.

            • Correct, I was inexact. However, stop tend to require kill. “Shoot to stop” encourages the “why not shoot him in the kneecap?” argument, like every cop is Dirty Harry.

              • That “shoot to wound” business is mainly for public relations. “Shoot to stop” is more accurate, but still a bit on the “user friendly” side. An officer who shoots for the extremities during a firefight is taking a big chance with his own life and that of others. In the M.P.’s, we were trained to shoot “dead center mass”. Period. A solid hit with a .45 ACP round (before we got those damn Berettas!) would definitely stop anything human. And yes, it would very likely kill into the bargain. A dead man, however, is definitely a “stopped” man.

                The central point is this: In a firefight, there are no halfway measures. If someone has already tried to kill you- by whatever means- and is committing actions that endanger the lives of others as well, you assume him to be a menace to all and do what you must. That’s the job. You don’t ask him politely if he has (additionally) a firearm in his possession! If he has, he will kill you with it.

                One other point, though. The amount of shots that the officer poured into the vehicle and the subject is indicative of both poor training and poor fire discipline.

                  • The last 15 were after the gunfire had ended, his third reload

                    The suspects were motionless, having been hit by multiple rounds each, in a car that was immobilised. The shooting had ended.

                    Then this guy reloads, climbs on top of the hood to point-blank range, and empties his last magazine into the car.

                    What his motives were one can only speculate, but “to make sure they weren’t just neutralised, but executed” is up there. As is insanity.

                    Councilman Matt Zone, who chairs council’s Safety Committee, said Saturday that he respects the judge’s verdict and has faith in the administration to review Brelo’s conduct fairly and arrive at the right decision.

                    “I have no doubt that he is definitely going to be disciplined, maybe even terminated,” Zone said.

                    Yes, he’s still on the force. No, there’s no guarantee that he won’t be re-instated to full duties with back-pay. On past history, that’s not unlikely.

      • Far to often the only way to get an officer fired is to convict them of a crime. Otherwise the police union will step up and block the termination of the officer.

        Quite often the officer will be terminated when the press is paying attention, and then the officer will get their job back a year or two later (with back pay, effectively making it a long paid vacation).

  5. “After a 22-mile chase [through the streets of Cleveland at speeds of up to 100 mph], Russell rammed a police car in a middle school parking lot, police said.”

    Unarmed? Unarmed?

    • Police say a lot of things. They have as much of a Constitutional right to lie to cover up their own crimes as any other criminal. As we have seen repeatedly where video evidence directly contradicts their reports.

      No, not all police, and not all the time. Enough so that where video evidence exists, it often contradicts their statements though. Most of the time there’s no video, so their reports can’t be challenged.

      Most police aren’t criminals, or things would be even worse. They may even have a lower rate of criminal conduct than civilians.

    • Yeah, they tried that line in a local case. A perp tried to run over an officer and he shot and killed her. There was all sorts of caterwauling about her being “unarmed.”

      Ignoring the fact that there are more people killed by vehicles than guns in the US.

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