14 Ethics Musings On The Death Of Francisco Serna

keith-scott

Scott and Serna.

From The Washington Post:

Slightly after midnight on Monday, police in Bakersfield, Calif., received a call concerning a man thought to be brandishing a weapon in a residential neighborhood.

Shortly after police arrived, 73-year-old Francisco Serna — who family members said was suffering from the early stages of dementia — walked out of his home and into his driveway. When Serna, who was unarmed, did not comply with officers’ orders to remove his hands from his jacket pocket, one officer fired seven shots at him, killing him.

During a canvass of the premises that lasted at least until the following afternoon, police did not find a firearm on or near Serna. Instead, they found a crucifix.

Questions and Observations:

1. The shooting occurred two days ago, on December 12. There have been no organized protests, or community groups, family lawyers or anyone else suggesting that the shooting was murder, or an example of police animus toward the community. Why not?

2. The circumstances of the shooting were notably similar to the police involved shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, except that in the case of Scott, the officer believed the victim had a gun, and he did have a gun. Nonetheless, that shooting triggered two days of rioting. Why?

3. In the Scott shooting, both officer and victim were black. In the recent shooting in Bakersfield, officer and victim were white. Why did one shooting become a racial incident and the other not, when the conduct of the police officers were essentially identical, and the provocation for the shootings  were similar as well?

4. One difference in the two episodes is that in Charlotte, a false narrative was launched by a family member to make the shooting appear to be a case of excessive force with a police cover-up. Is it just felicitous that this did not occur in Bakersfield, or was the Charlotte episode different in some way that caused events to resemble the aftermath in the Ferguson and Freddie Gray police-involved deaths?

5. If Francisco Serna had been black and all other facts the same, is there any reason to believe that the aftermath, including recriminations, accusations and attacks on police, the justice system and the nation’s culture, would have been any different than they have been every time an unarmed black man, or a black man who was reported as being unarmed, has been shot by police? If there is not, what does that tell us?

6. If the only substantive difference between the two episodes is the color of the victim, and if it must be acknowledged that such tragic episodes are not necessarily caused by circumstances dependent on race, then why does one shooting become a racial controversy and the other does not?

7. How can the Bakersfield episode be reported as a police tragedy that does not suggest that police are aggressively ready to shoot white citizens, while the Charlotte episode is reported as one in a series of police involved shootings showing that “black lives don’t matter?”

8. Why does the public and the news media accept the construct that the race of the victim in such a shooting proves institutional racism when the individual shot is black, regardless of the race of the police shooter, but the fact that the same kinds of incidents happen to black victims is ignored as evidence contrary to this assumption?

9. The shooting of Francisco Serna was also caused in part by a mistaken citizen report that he was “brandishing a pistol.” This aspect of the case is similar to the facts in the tragic shootings of  African American Tamir Rice, where police were told that a “man was aiming a gun” at passersby, when the original 911 caller  had suggested that it was a child with a toy, and the 2014 shooting of African American John Crawford in a Walmart, as he was carrying an unpackaged toy rifle. In that case as well, police were mistakenly told that he was a “subject with a gun.”  What makes the shootings of Rice and Crawford proof that police target blacks, while the Sena shooting is accepted as a tragic mistake, perhaps to be remedied by training?

10. Is anyone going to ask Black Lives Matter representatives, Colin Kaepernick, or Elie Mystal how they reconcile the interpretations of these incidents? Is not the obvious answer that the accusations of racism and murder are sparked by confirmation bias that nobody in the race grievance community has the integrity, courage or honesty to admit?

11. Can anti-police activists in the black community not see the evident inconsistency? If they can’t, why not? If they can, then why don’t they explain, clearly and persuasively, why a white police officer shooting an unarmed white man with dementia shouldn’t suggest that a black cop shooting an armed emotionally disturbed black man who is off his medications may not be part of a racist conspiracy by the American justice system to kill blacks after all?

12. Why isn’t the single lesson of both cases, as with the death of Mike Brown, that when a police officer tells you to stop approaching and show your hands, all citizens, black or white, should stop approaching and show their hands?

13. Thus far, I have read nor heard any commentators, pundits, politicians or activists considering, discussing or confronting any of the above. Why is that?

14. Finally, is it unreasonable and insensitive to simultaneously agree that police relations with black communities and vice-versa are a serious problem requiring policy reforms, and also to accept that the routine presumption of racist motivations in police-involved shootings is unethical, unfair and unjust?

92 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

92 responses to “14 Ethics Musings On The Death Of Francisco Serna

  1. charlesgreen

    Jack,

    If tragic shootings like this were race-random, then the selective responses you point out would be rank hypocrisy.

    But they’re not, and it isn’t.

    This stuff doesn’t correlate 100% to race, to be sure: there’s a lot of crossover with police training, neighborhoods, income levels, etc.

    But neither is race irrelevant. The most recent powerfully-studied example of this is a massively detailed, exhaustive, and brilliantly done study of the New York State correctional system by the New York Times.http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/nyregion/new-york-state-prisons-inmates-racial-bias.html

    Datapoint after datapoint after datapoint, analysis after analysis, myth after myth, the study crushingly demonstrates the pervasive negative impact of race in the system. You simply cannot honestly read it and come away thinking anything other than it sucks to be black in the NY State correctional system. Period.

    Now you may claim that that system is unique, one-off, non-represenative of other penal systems, or that the penal system itself is walled off and utterly non-reflective of society.

    But I’m not buying it, not one little bit, and I don’t think you do either.

    If a kind of attack victimizes one set of people X% more than another set of people, then why wouldn’t you expect to see the disparity of responses you’re pointing to?

    You can’t declare hypocrisy by comparing a few single incidents to each other; you’ve got to determine whether there is any pervasive, systemic pattern to the phenomenon. I would argue there is, and this study is powerful evidence of it.

    Show me some other serious study that says police brutality is racially neutral en masse, because there are dozens of studies that say the contrary.
    That doesn’t mean every police error is racial; it just means there’s a preponderance. Which I think is simply undeniable.

    • That doesn’t answer the questions, though, or answer them, right, Charles? Logically speaking, even if an event looks like its related to other events, you can’t assume it and move on. Context matters, but context doesn’t change the facts, Is it fair for the shooter in Charlotte to be impugned because of what others may or may not have done? How can you or anyone, claim that’s fair or honest? Yes, look at the forest—but the trees are distinct and individual, and can’t be subsumed without bias ruling.

      • charlesgreen

        “Is it fair for the shooter in Charlotte to be impugned?”

        It is certainly not fair in a court of law to be impugned, or treated wrongly. In the court of public opinion, however, you’ll have to point out to me a forum which is scrupulously “fair.” I’m not even sure what that means.

        Does it mean journalists should always say “we should always and ever only look at things case by case?” That’s the role of the courts, not the media.

        I guess I just think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be race-netrual in every specific case when there is significant evidence that systemically things are NOT race neutral.

        Why should you expect walking-around citizens to be “fair” about what they say in the face of UN-fairness in terms of people getting shot? At the very least, it’s not realistic.

        I would argue it’s not even fair.

        • I guess I just think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be race-netrual in every specific case when there is significant evidence that systemically things are NOT race neutral.

          The only evidence you presented so far was that this was the case in the New York correctional system…which has nothing to do with Charlotte.

    • What would racial bias in the New York correctional system have to do with a shooting in California?

      It is like arguing that freedom of speech is endangered in the U.S. because of the conviction of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

  2. Matthew B

    Why aren’t white people pissed off about unarmed white folks getting shot by cops with no accountability for the officers involved?

    • charlesgreen

      Who says they’re not? I sure as hell am!

      • Matthew B

        Those that are pissed off are the small minority.

        The issue is highly polarized. Those on both sides tend not to be open minded. Being pragmatic on the issue seems to be rare.

        • Neil Dorr

          Matthew,

          You’re obviously not an activist. These issues are discussed at length, they just don’t make it into the media shouting match and so they’re often missed.

          The whole definition of “media” on this site is so skewed because Jack still assumes people rely on traditional media for their information and so when they’re not talking about something, it MUST not be talked about. In other words, old men complaining about kids passing coded notes in class they don’t understand.

          • I use the term “mainstream media,’ Neil, which is still the primary source of news, as well as professional journalists. They are an alleged profession. Citizen journalists, as in bloggers, and partisan sources, like The Daily Caller or The Dail Kos, do not.

            • Neil Dorr

              .. screams the old man at his students.

              • Neil Dorr

                By the time news reaches the “mainstream” it’s already old. Most of what you read and comment on has already made it’s way through the interwebs ad nauseum before you even make mention of it, then you point fingers at the “media” for not raising awareness of it.

                Just because you’re out of the loop doesn’t mean we all are.

              • Call me “old” again, dick-head, and you’re gone. Final warning. Bigotry, ad-hominem, and insulting. You don’t get a pass, Just because you don’t have a legitimate argument doesn’t justify that. Crystal clear?

                And I’ll expect a formal apology. Clock is running.

                • Neil Dorr

                  Jack,

                  I didn’t mean it as an insult (except in a playful manner), but you’re right, it was out-of-line and I apologize.

                  In keeping with that, I wish you’d apologize for the numerous times you’ve called me an asshole, dick-head, idiotic, or a trained seal (actually that one you did apologize for), but I suppose there must be some ethical reason why those were justified. I have never once meant you ill-will and I’ve tried to keep my criticism to your writings, but for some reason they’re always interpreted differently. I’m fulling willing to admit it has to do with my tone, but I seem incapable of changing it to better convey my feelings.

                  For some reason, however, despite my pleadings not to read intention into my commentary, you nevertheless seem continually angered (or frustrated, or whatever the corresponding adjective is) by my comments, even when they’re substantially the same as someone else’s.

                  What really bothers me is how you were in the email you sent to me after my father’s passing offering your condolences and support, yet my responses both electronically and in writing have gone unanswered. I realize you don’t owe me anything, but it did make the offer seem all the more empty.

                  “That’s just untrue. If it hasn’t reached the mainstream, there’s a 75% chance it’s made up or wrong. After it reaches the mainstream, the odds from to about 35%.”

                  Not if you know where and how to read. I worked in security analysis for awhile and we rarely, if ever, relied on mainstream media. Primary sources are by far the best way to go when getting up-to-date happenings. Yes, the specifics change later but, again, if you know how to read it, it’s easy.

                  Sincerely,
                  Neil

                  • Neil Dorr

                    Jack,

                    I’m many things, but an bigot (at least with regard to ageism) isn’t one of them. I’ve volunteered in (and advocated on behalf of) elder care all my life, my closest friend (aside from my dead father — who was your age) is a 71 year old, and I’m old myself.

                    Again, I apologize for the crass way in which it came off and for doing so as a means of frustrating you.

                    That said, I would NEVER use the word as an insult — I meant to insinuate you were out of touch.

                    -Neil

                    • This is a hilarious comment. It’s so funny and self-contradictory, it’s not worth being pissed off at.

                    • Neil Dorr

                      I really am sorry, but apparently that doesn’t matter.

                    • No, it doesn’t. Using “old” to denigrate someone’s position is pure ad hominem. That instinct is vile, and no better than calling someone Jew, bitch, or black bastard. Nor is it an explanation to say “I meant ‘out of touch'” The presumption that those who are older are out of touch is a conceit of the young, and one, thank god, that I never adopted or believed. It is our obligation as members of society never to become ignorant of what is happening and change, and I, like others, work very hard to keep up on all cultural developments and changes, and i dare say I am more literate about the present than my younger colleagues tend to be regarding past events, and shame on them. The assumption that the “old” are out of touch is a slur and bigotry. The assumption that an individual who is older than you is more out of touch than you, and can be generalized as old and out of touch is also bigotry, as well as a cheap shot. I am better informed, wiser, better at my job, with more skills, healthier and with as much energy as 20 years ago, and I do not consider myself “old” in any way, and my assessment is what matters, since I know myself better than anyone.

                    • Neil Dorr

                      And it still hurts you never wrote back.

  3. Wait wait wait wait wait.

    Family members knew he was in the early stages of dementia and weren’t casually checking on him periodically?

    My dad is in the extremely early stages, and I try to talk to him often. And if we’re over visiting, if he goes outside I still like to “chat” periodically.

    • deery

      It sounds like the man lived with his family, but slipped out of the house after everyone else was asleep for the night.

      • Oh ok. Then I retract my protest from that angle.

        I wonder, though, if the family knew he was prone to wander.

        • So, having spent some time helping to take care of my grandfather when he went through dementia, I’d lean towards saying probably. Particularly during the early stages, most dementia patients are still active (sometimes even more than they were in life), so the family, even if he didn’t have a history of wandering, would have been aware that he could wander. Even so, What alternatives did the family have? Tie him up to keep him from wandering? Lock him in a room? Bells on doors and windows to alert them if he went outside?

          I haven’t seen a report yet that indicates whether they did any of those… But really, does it matter?

          The reports that I’ve read indicate that it was a neighbor who pointed him out to the police while he was wandering, and that the police shot and killed him within 30 seconds of the neighbor doing so. Which seems like a short time frame, given how often people get confused by similar clothing and the like, and the lack of any visible weapon to the police. But, they had been informed that he had a weapon, and dementia is not a disability that’s typically obvious from a distance. Was it a mistaken identification, or had the neighbor honestly believed the crucifix Serna had a habit of carrying looked like a handgun? At a bit past midnight, on a dark street… that may not be so unreasonable, especially if the crucifix was oversized (one report implied it was 6 inches long, but that’s the only report to mention size, and it was mentioned in the context of ‘Serna had taken to carrying a six inch crucifix with him recently’, which doesn’t mean that was the one that was found on his body).

          This was a tragedy, but I don’t know that there’s anyone at actual fault here.

          • Not assigning blame. And I do question the police’s quickness to shoot.

            However, I am interested in the family angle on this.

            “Bells on doors and windows to alert them if he went outside?”

            Not a bad idea actually. If you can *effortlessly* and *without adding any unreasonable burden* which a simple set of signals like that would be, but the payoff is massive, why wouldn’t you take the simple precaution?

            • We did eventually do that with my grandfather, and I’ll agree with you that it’s a mechanically easy fix. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with family going through dementia… or small children who’ve just managed to learn how to work the doors.

              It’s not infallible, of course. Bells don’t always ring, especially if the door is accidentally left open, or ring loud enough to be heard if you’re doing something elsewhere in the house (showering, for instance, or in a room with loud machinery like a washing machine) for you to hear it. And even when you do hear it, horrible things can happen, even in the short period of time it takes to gets across the house, if you weren’t right there.

              I will note that it can change the dynamics of the situation, on an emotional level, though. My grandmother, for instance, resisted making it as a change for a long time, because she felt it made her more like her husband’s jailer/warden than his companion/wife/caretaker. I didn’t start doing any of the caretaking until after the change had been made, but even so, I hated hearing that bell, because you never knew what it meant.

              On a personal note – I noticed what you said about your father earlier Tex, and didn’t think to say anything in the first post… You have my sympathy, and best wishes. Watching a family member go through any type of dementia is heartbreaking in ways that words can’t really describe, and while the experience is unique to each of us, it isn’t one I would wish on anyone.

  4. deery

    The man, Francisco Serna, was Hispanic, and described as such in the phone call to the police.

    Serna’s family organized a candlelight vigil on Tuesday evening in his neighborhood, and called for the US Department of Justice to review Serna’s death and for the California attorney general to appoint an independent investigator to the case.

    “It is difficult to accept that our dad’s life ended so brutally, abruptly and with such excessive violence,” the family said in a statement read at the vigil. “Our dad was treated like a criminal and we feel he was left to die alone without his family by his side.”

    The family said that police did not allow them to comfort their mother, Serna’s wife, immediately after the shooting, and that they were threatened with arrest if they crossed police lines during the investigation. The family also said they were not told by police Serna had died and instead found out through local news coverage.

    Serna’s death has increased demands for changes to the way police interact with people with disabilities. Serna had recently been diagnosed with dementia, according to his family. The Ruderman Family Foundation, which works to support people with disabilities, released a statement reiterating “its call for better policing when interacting with people with disabilities”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/14/police-shoot-unarmed-man-crucifix-francisco-serna-california?CMP=fb_tc

    • And? Hispanic lives matter? Was he described as a Hispanic man in the police call, or just a man? His skin is whiter than mine is. Did the officer know his name? I haven’t heard about the US police plan to kill old Hispanic men…

      • deery

        And? Hispanic lives matter? Was he described as a Hispanic man in the police call, or just a man?

        Yes, as the article cited indicates, he was described as a Hispanic male in the police call. Race, in America, is based on far more than just skin color.

        • wyogranny

          I’m not sure why you think this refutes Jack’s point.

        • You think. There is no Hispanic “race.” Brazil and Mexico have whites, blacks and others. This is just ducking the issue. Alex Rodriguez is white. David Ortiz is black, Both are Hispanic-Americans.

          • Spartan

            This is an intellectual answer, not a practical one. Most lay people see it as a separate race and throwing a textbook at their heads won’t change that opinion.

            Here’s an easy example and we encounter it ALL the time. My husband is half Mexican (the other half is Native American and German). Thus, my children are 1/4 Mexican. You have seen my husband and children Jack, they are the whitest people on the planet. One of my girls has bright blonde hair and the other has dark blonde hair. They both have blue eyes. Every single time that we mention this fact to family and friends, they laugh. Every time my husband addresses a Latino person in Spanish, he/she looks astonished.

            It is International Heritage month in January at our school, and one of the teachers is considering using our girls as a teaching moment along with some of the other more “obvious” Hispanic families in the class.

            Hispanic now means brown skin and a Spanish accent.

            • I think, as I have since high school, that race as a concept is an increasingly silly *and unscientific* method of categorizing people.

              I do believe in the concept of “ethnicity” (but even then just barely), but with the awareness that in practical genetic terms any one particular “ethnicity” is a very transitional group at best — changing gradually over time as merges, external influences, splits, migrations, etc constantly changing the base phenotype.

              I think there are dozens and dozens if not hundreds of “ethnicities” but you only ever see maybe a half dozen “races”. The fact that we see each other as race is problematic anyway. And seeing each other as ethnicities is really not much better.

              I think seeing each other as “culture groups” is ultimately far more beneficial. But you could never classify someone into a culture group for government tracking purposes.

              • Spartan

                Yes. I agree with all of this. But the vast majority of people like simple rules or, to excuse the pun, “black and white.”

              • deery

                think, as I have since high school, that race as a concept is an increasingly silly *and unscientific* method of categorizing people.

                I do believe in the concept of “ethnicity” (but even then just barely), but with the awareness that in practical genetic terms any one particular “ethnicity” is a very transitional group at best — changing gradually over time as merges, external influences, splits, migrations, etc constantly changing the base phenotype.

                I agree with this. Yet people will still try to argue you down. And just because it is a concept and not a scientifically measurable reality doesn’t mean it doesn’t have real-life repercussions. Money, after all, is an arbitrary and somewhat silly concept, but it still has deep and far-ranging effects in our society.

        • John Staszak

          Please clarify for me. Are Hispanics now back to being considered not white? The whole “white Hispanic” thing from the Trayvon Martin affair has left me a little confused. Or does it vary depending on the narrative?

          • Spartan

            With young kids, I am constantly filling out forms: camp, school, swimming, ballet, doctor’s offices, etc. Every form I see has a white/non-hispanic category and a white/hispanic category. This information is being tracked for many different reasons, but to answer to your question — yes.

            • But they aren’t discussing subcategories of “white” which “non Hispanic” and “hispanic” clarify.

              They are discussing subcategories of “Hispanic”, which seem to fluctuate between “white” and “non white” as political expediency requires.

              • Spartan

                I’m not sure that’s true — I think most people equate hispanic with brown skin now.

                • Greeks have olive skin. There is no “brown” race or “olive” race. The obsession of labeling everyone by increasingly narrow groups is is politically driven pathology unmoored to logic, history, or national interests. Most people live by rationalizations, too—it doesn’t make it healthy, productive or right, and the responsible course is to reject it.

                  One more beneficial side effect of the election, because a lot of people have, and are increasingly not afraid to say so. Good.

                  • Spartan

                    Do you think this obsession is new? It’s been happening since the dawn of time? And Greek people used to be considered less desirable immigrants than their Western European counterparts, but still MORE desirable than their African and Middle Eastern neighbors.

                    So while Greeks may not be deemed a race, I would argue (and win) that they were discriminated against in the past because of their national origin, religion, and other stereotypes associated with them. But now people don’t care as much about Greeks because they have more worrisome groups. It was shocking when my Aunt married a Greek Orthodox man 30 years ago (Michigan has a large Greek community). Now? People don’t care about that in Michigan, but if one of us married a Muslim-American, holy cow would the shit hit the fan.

                    But Hispanic does equal race because it crosses national boundaries. You can be classified as a Hispanic from Cuba, Mexico, Peru, etc. You can only be Greek if you’re from Greece. Now, if “olive” starts being a category on forms, then it gets complicated.

                    • Slick Willy

                      “So while Greeks may not be deemed a race, I would argue (and win) that they were discriminated against in the past because of their national origin, religion, and other stereotypes associated with them.”

                      Substitute ‘Irish’ for ‘Greek’ and the statement is still true. They did not used to be called ‘white’ either.

                      ‘Othering’ of those not like ourselves goes way back in history. It usually leads to wrongs done between groups. What do we do about it? Human Nature will always out, and I believe this is a basic part of our (fallen) nature.

                • :”I’m not sure that’s true — I think most people equate hispanic with brown skin now.”

                  I think you are accurate in *that* statement.

                  But John distinctly indicated his confusion about when a hispanic person is seen as “white” versus “non-white”; then you replied about classifying whites as “hispanic” versus “non-hispanic”. Hence my reply.

          • Matthew Beasley

            The Northern Europeans who settled the US and Canada interbred with the native people at a low rate. The native people were pushed out and decimated here.

            In the Spanish colonized countries, interbreeding was the norm. There are some who are nearly all Spanish, some who are highly Indian, but most are a mix. Most consider themselves a single ethnicity in spite of skin color.
            Some consider themselves as white, some do not.

    • “Serna’s death has increased demands for changes to the way police interact with people with disabilities. Serna had recently been diagnosed with dementia, according to his family.”

      Except in obvious cases though, how are police to know someone is disabled?

      • Matthew Beasley

        Stop shooting people for passive non compliance. That would stop the killing of the disabled.

        We train officers to be overly afraid because of a few instances of ambush. The training considers the life of the officer more important than any other person’s life. Deaths like this are considered an acceptable risk. Even though the hypervigalence would save few officers because an ambush, by definition, hits when the officer does not expect it.

        • I’m sorry, Matthew, that’s nuts, naive, and dangerous. If an individual keeps advancing on an officer after he demands a stop, it is 1005 reasonable to shoot unless it is clear that he isn’t armed. Your position is laughable, and I know because I’ve heard responsible police officers laugh at it. This is like Jesse Jackson suggesting that officers try to “wing” such individuals, because he’s seen too many TV shows.

          • Matthew B

            Advancing is not passive non compliance. Advancing is an active threat. You’re making a straw man argument. When I say passive, I mean staying put but not doing exactly as told. Officers are allowed to shoot people in those specific circumstances, and I disagree specifically with those cases lacking display of a weapon.

            I’m most certainly not on the same page as Jessie Jackson. When you shoot, you shoot to stop the threat. I agree with that stance.. A good example is the school officer shooting in Reno. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/100-march-protest-school-police-shooting-reno-teen-44201423 I stand with the officer in that case. A kid swinging a knife is a real threat, and the kid is lucky to still be alive.

            PS: I just realized I’m using two user names based on different devices – no deception intended.

          • tommatt

            Sorry, Jack but both you and the police are Dead Wrong. They should operate on the same rules of engagement as our armed forces and be able to identify a positive threat before being allowed to use deadly force. If the police don’t like it, they can just resign , they were NOT forced to join the police force, they wanted to ( and it now it appears they did so for the wrong reason…. to use lethal force without any responsibily ! )

            • Not police policy, nor should it be. I’ve asked more than one police chief about this. It’s simple. When the police say stop and empty your hands, you do it. Demented? Make sure your family is looking out for you, because police don’t have a brain scan. A subject who approaches and will not stop IS a direct threat.

      • deery

        In this instance, the police had been called to the residence a few times before because the man’s medical alert bracelet he wore because of his dementia had been accidently pressed. The police knew, or should have known, about this individual’s disability.

  5. Jack, taking the recent Boghassian article and the method of knowledge growth by falsification (Popper scientific method) and the need to generate ways to be wrong (defeaters) rather than appealing to a weight of evidence I find the following
    The first 13 points I could only read as evidence to show that Black Lives Matter are deliberately and knowingly anti-cop, anti-system or possibly anti-white. It is honestly hard to tell.
    The last point, 14, represents, in question form, your real or pretended position. Please understand that I am not criticising, that is attacking, your style, only reflecting on how many ways it can be read – in order to produce defeaters.

    So, as I read it, these are not 14 independent musings but 1 conclusion and 13 points of evidence with implied argument to support it.
    Or as a Black Livers Matter supporter might read it, 13 provocative claims as questions, followed by a 14th closer of the same form. The whole designed to maximise resentment, to goad or bully in some way.
    Or as a cop or judge or frightened citizen or white racist might read it.14 pertinent questions each with an obvious answer that the writer cannot state openly for fear of being called a racist.
    Or as you intended it to be read . . . I can’t guess.

    Therefore (if I’m reading your basic intent correctly)
    Police relations with black communities and vice-versa are a serious problem requiring policy reforms, and the routine presumption of racist motivations in police-involved shootings is unethical, unfair and unjust
    IF
    The previous claims as questions were factually true
    That is
    1. The observation is not compatible with a racism explanation butt is compatible with a Black lives matter more narrative.

    2. same as for 1

    3. as for 1

    4. Revenge motivated and emotive but false statements from black relatives (and only black relatives) are strong determinants of further racial tensions after a shooting L showing that Black Lives matter more

    5. By induction from a long series of previous such events: Black lives in the life of the nation matter more than white lives

    6. When racism was but one explanation for a set of observations, the racism explanation is preferred to others in public channels of information.

    7. Two data points in toto cannot not be explained by race

    8.A set of observations is incompatible with race based explanations

    9. A further set of observations is not compatible with a racism based explanation

    10. From 1-9 by inconsistency with racism based explanations BLM beliefs consttute a conspiracy theory and no one will call them out on it for fear of being labelled racist or offending black and liberal sentiment

    11. The inconsistencies show that there is no institutional racism in American justice system.

    12. Consequences of being black or any color in receipt of a police instruction and failing to comply are the victims responsibility

    13. lack of comment is due to fear of labbeling or of offending precious black or liberal sentiment

    therefore The position
    Police relations with black communities and vice-versa are a serious problem requiring policy reforms, and the routine presumption of racist motivations in police-involved shootings is unethical, unfair and unjust
    is extremely mild and necessary comment
    Unless
    claims 1-9 are subsstatially false
    or
    other evidence showing that racism exists is overllooked
    or
    another mechanism that could explain all the data has yet to be revealed
    or
    stating claims as questions renders all subsequent discussion incoherent

    • Neil Dorr

      “So, as I read it, these are not 14 independent musings but 1 conclusion and 13 points of evidence with implied argument to support it.”

      Yes, exactly. And, meanwhile, other conclusions aren’t even made or are lost in the finger-pointing.

  6. Pennagain

    Re #14: yes, it is unreasonable to assume there can be mutual accord because there is a third factor (even more unreasonable) — Guns, the use of. This is where it goes off the tracks. As stupid as it sounds, there is a large, I don’t know how large, but enough to be a powerful voting bloc, whose major concern could be labeled “Danger to the People: The Militarization of the Police in the U.S.A.” This is another set of arguments that on the basis of little understood validity calls for the disarmament (or close to it) of our police forces. This goes against the grain with those in favor of weapon power, the more, the bigger, the better. It is one of those my-side-or-nothing-at-all fights that is not being paid attention to because people are busy focusing on finding or, rather, creating poster boys and girls to bolster their particular bias.

  7. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    This is truly sick. A 73 year old man is dead and the only observations you can make are with regard to how BLM and the media don’t care enough? The man’s body isn’t even cold and you’re already using this tragedy as an analogy for some larger point.

    “Why isn’t the single lesson of both cases, as with the death of Mike Brown, that when a police officer tells you to stop approaching and show your hands, all citizens, black or white, should stop approaching and show their hands?”

    Maybe because the person in question was upset and suffering from a mental disability that might have made it impossible for him to understand what they were shouting or how he was supposed to respond. Moreover, although the Mike Brown narrative is a myth, holding up ones hands is often no guarantee of anything. Several such shootings have involved people who appear to comply with orders and are still shot for their troubles.

    I completely agree that the problems that need addressing have more to do with police procedure and a better understanding of what it means to “serve and protect” a community, but using this as an example of how “race doesn’t matter” does nothing to further that conversation. You’re politicizing this shooting to prove a double-standard the same way BLM tries to use the shootings they publicize to show a double-standard the other way. And, all the while both sides keep throwing “test cases” back and forth, the body count climbs higher and higher.

    A man is dead, have some fucking respect.

    -Neil

    • Neil Dorr

      Screaming about the unfairness of a system does nothing to make it more fair. You offer questions without even a suggestion of where answers can be found.

      This reminds me of papers I used to grade in which students thought they were being philosophic by asking numerous rhetorical questions throughout their paper which then culminates some final question that does little more than restate their thesis as a query for future consideration.

    • Hey, I’m not speaking at a funeral, Neil. Please articulate your standard, if you can. So it’s acceptable to immediately use other media reported deaths to argue for gun control, or against terrorism, or that police are racists, but this one is immune from analysis—why, because it doesn’t fit into an activist agenda? My mission is ethical clarity and analysis, not phony accommodations for people who won’t be reading the posts. This is just a poor excuse to shut down consideration of issues you don’t want to think about, playing “respect for the dead” card. Nothing in the post was disrespectful of the victim.

      Your comment scores a 10 on the gratuitous assholery scale. Congratulations.

      And this gets bonus points for stupidity: “You’re politicizing this shooting to prove a double-standard the same way BLM tries to use the shootings they publicize to show a double-standard the other way.”

      1. Commenting on misleading and intellectually dishonest race-baiting isn’t political. If all sides don’t acknowledge it, its an integrity problem.

      2. BLM’s race-baiting rhetoric makes it appear that only unarmed black men are killed by police, or, more absurdly, that when black men are killed, it proves racism, but when non-black men are killed, it’s not relevant. My observations aren’t like this at all. You’re blathering as a substitute for dealing with the issus.

      • deery

        BLM asserts that only unarmed black men are killed by police, or, more absurdly, that when black men are killed, it proves racism, but when non-black men are killed, it’s not relevant. My observations aren’t like this at all. You’re blathering as a substitute for dealing with the issus.

        Citation needed, as this appears to be a false assertion. Indeed, BLM has shown up to demonstrate and write articles against police brutality in cases where the victim was white, such as the case in Florida where the teenager was shot by police over alleged marijuana use, and the case in Louisiana where the police killed the six year boy when his father was allegedly fleeing from the police in his car.

        BLM asserts that black people (and other vulnerable populations) are *disproportionately* the victim of police brutality, which does not mean exclusively, or invariably. Not every shooting of a black person by police is protested by BLM or noticed by the media, nor even most of them. Your entire premise of this post is false.

        • Answer the questions. The fact that every shooting isn’t protested doesn’t wash—the website shows that shooting are protested where the officer was blameless. The point is that a shooting does not prove racism. The point is that the assertion that disproportionate shootings of blacks necessarily proves animus and racism is a biased and unsupportable conclusion. The point is that individual shootings should be based on individual facts. The point is the the color of the officer or the victim should not be used as evidence of anything, without more.

          Don’t quote a reply to a comment as if it were in the post—that confused ME. I didn’t write that “BLM asserts that only unarmed black men are killed by police,” is the post, and that obviously is wildly overstated. I only am able to engage with commenters if I do it conversationally—using my quick replies as gotchas stinks. Since the second part of the statement about non-white police shootings should have indicated, and would have to a fair commenter, the part you bolded is not what I meant to write. It now reads,

          BLM’s race-baiting rhetoric makes it appear that only unarmed black men are killed by police.

          • deery

            Don’t quote a reply to a comment as if it were in the post—that confused ME. I didn’t write that “BLM asserts that only unarmed black men are killed by police,” is the post, and that obviously is wildly overstated. I only am able to engage with commenters if I do it conversationally—using my quick replies as gotchas stinks. Since the second part of the statement about non-white police shootings should have indicated, and would have to a fair commenter, the part you bolded is not what I meant to write.

            I quoted what you wrote, as it immediately struck me as untrue and unfair. If you didn’t want to stand by that statement, as it appears you did not, you can clarify or take it back, as you later did.

            BLM’s race-baiting rhetoric makes it appear that only unarmed black men are killed by police.

            So when they point out they black people are disproportionately the victims of police brutality, when they offer up evidence that indeed, the police are targeting minorities for harassment and interventions, and they do indeed try to coverup police shootings, they are nothing but “race baiters”? And when they are out there protesting shootings and raising awareness of white victims, they are still race baiters? Your premise is both fuzzy and false.

            • They are NOT, though. THAT’S false. The Washington Post database shows it. Black disproportionately refuse to obey lawful police orders, get involved with law enforcement officers, and threaten police officers. The incidents of accidental shootings of blacks, like Rice and Crawford, do appear to disproportionately involve black victims.

      • Neil Dorr

        Jack,

        “This is just a poor excuse to shut down consideration of issues you don’t want to think about, playing ‘respect for the dead’ card. Nothing in the post was disrespectful of the victim.”

        BULLSHIT. I have been actively involved in police and prison reform actions since before 1/2 of these BLM people were even born. As I said before, I agree the issues are larger than race. But, do you address any of them? No. You spend 14 talking points blaming others for not considering the issues in a larger context while you meanwhile fail to also consider them in a larger context.

        I never said you couldn’t discuss the issue or even use it in a larger context, but you’re doing so before the body IS EVEN COLD. As the thread above me proves, a lot of what we know thus far is still speculation. We know almost nothing about the case, and yet you’re already pointing fingers.

        —–

        “Your comment scores a 10 on the gratuitous assholery scale. Congratulations.”

        Thanks, I guess?

        While we’re on the subject, I’ve never once called you an asshole (or “stupid,” “idiotic,” or any of the other favorites you throw at me all the time.). I was (understandably) upset over a man’s death and your apparent callousness to it, but never did I resort to making larger judgments about your person or character. I don’t have a thin skin, as some here have accused me, but rarely do you respond without some kind of barb. Why?

        —–

        “So it’s acceptable to immediately use other media reported deaths to argue for gun control, or against terrorism, or that police are racists, but this one is immune from analysis—why, because it doesn’t fit into an activist agenda?”

        NO! It most emphatically is NOT, which is exactly what you so frequently call others out for doing. Yet, here you are, assigning a narrative to a case we still don’t fully understand. Not only a narrative, but you actively point fingers at other groups which AREN’T politicizing this enough.

        —–

        “Commenting on misleading and intellectually dishonest race-baiting isn’t political. If all sides don’t acknowledge it, its an integrity problem.”

        BLM has gained national attention and nods from politicians all over the political spectrum, both for and against. How is race-baiting NOT a political issue, especially given the campaign we just went through? Therefore, commenting on race-baiting and those who race-bait (especially in the context of highly publicized shootings which have become political issues) is inherently political.

        —–

        “My observations aren’t like this at all. You’re blathering as a substitute for dealing with the issus.”

        You’re observations amount to “these groups are racist and this case proves it.” Explain to me how I’m blathering when I express concern that you’ve used a tragedy to prove an agenda.

        Again, a man is dead. Where’s the sadness? Where’s the outrage?

        -Neil

        • BULLSHIT. I have been actively involved in police and prison reform actions since before 1/2 of these BLM people were even born. As I said before, I agree the issues are larger than race.

          This may come as a shock, ND, but the post wasn’t about you.

          But, do you address any of them? No. You spend 14 talking points blaming others for not considering the issues in a larger context while you meanwhile fail to also consider them in a larger context.

          I address all of them by asking the questions. Go ahead…answer them. And I don’t use “talking points.” Foul.

          I never said you couldn’t discuss the issue or even use it in a larger context, but you’re doing so before the body IS EVEN COLD.

          Sorry, that’s not even vaguely relevant in the commentary and analysis field. I don’t care. The issue is raised now. And I’m pretty sure the body IS cold.

          As the thread above me proves, a lot of what we know thus far is still speculation. We know almost nothing about the case, and yet you’re already pointing fingers.

          We know that in a similar scenario when the victim had a gun, there were riots, widely excused by the media and activists, and in this case, there were not, even though the man was unarmed. we know that, and it’s plenty.

          —–

          “Your comment scores a 10 on the gratuitous assholery scale. Congratulations.”

          Thanks, I guess?

          While we’re on the subject, I’ve never once called you an asshole (or “stupid,” “idiotic,” or any of the other favorites you throw at me all the time.).

          That’s because I’m not, Neil, and its my site.

          • Neil Dorr

            Jack,
            No, you aren’t. But, as a general rule, neither am I.

            That having been said, that’s not really something a person can decide and assess for themselves, since it’s a reaction to how others percieve you (not literally you) That’s akin to someone denying they caused another person physical pain — it’s not up to them.

            Whether you respect the opinion of the one who said it is a matter of subjectivity, but the fact that they deemed you (again, not literally you) an asshole isn’t.

            -Neil

          • Neil Dorr

            “This may come as a shock, ND, but the post wasn’t about you.”

            I never assumed it was. Look at my comment again in context. You said that I was using the issue as a way to avoid addressing the issues I couldn’t. You said “you” in your comment. If it wasn’t directed at me, I apologize, but it’s an honest mistake when you’re talking to someone and you don’t make it clear the comment is rhetorical.

            Also, I know what rhetorical means. My objection was that the whole article consisted of rhetorical questions without conclusions. As I said, it’s something mediocre college students do all the time in an effort to sound smart (and fails just as often).

            • Rhetorical questions are designed to force those considering them toward particular conclusions.

              “A rhetorical question is asked just for effect or to lay emphasis on some point discussed when no real answer is expected. … In literature, a rhetorical question is self-evident and used for style as an impressive persuasive device.”

  8. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    The issue at hand is “police are prone to making snap judgments to often result in the death of innocents,” not “BLM has a double-standard because they don’t care about police shootings that don’t involve blacks.” Please explain how your article deals with the issue while my comment avoids it?

    • That’s not the issue I was discussing, nor was this a snap judgment, nor is “snap judgment remotely a fair of intelligent description of instances where an officer has a reasonable fear of violence. The issue is, and it was clear, that the current dialogue about police violence is biased, unjust and illogical, as it presumes racism and unique treatment of blacks universally, when the evidence disproves that to anyone willing to be fair.

      Go ahead. Try to answer the questions. Or one of them.

      • Neil Dorr

        Jack,
        I realize that’s not the issue you were discussing — yours was all about bias on the part of BLM and the like. I agree, they’re biased — so what? You used the facts of a case which you can’t possibly know to make a point unconnected with the tragedy. What you wrote about had nothing to do with the death of Mr. Serna; you simply used the incident as a club to beat up on others.

        Bad taste.

        -Neil

  9. Neil Dorr

    Lastly, (and I know I’ve commented a lot) I fail to understand how “talking points” is a foul. Is it a loaded term that I’m unfamiliar with? If so, I’m unaware of this coded language, so please enlighten me.

    You called your article “musings.” What is a musing if not a topic for further discussion? If they were conclusions, I would have addressed them as such, but you stated there weren’t any, these were points for your audience to consider

    • Talking points, as commonly used, are partisan, usually misleading spin distributed by a central source to agents, journalists and surrogates who attempt to distort facts and change public opinion through repetition of them. What I write originates with me, and therefor cannot be “talking points.”

      • Neil Dorr

        And “thug” is a racist term.

        • It is not a racist term at all. It is one of many legitimate and race-neutral words, as any literate person knows, that is well-defined from its historical roots.

          THUG, noun : thug; plural noun: thugs; noun: Thug

          1. a violent person, especially a criminal.
          synonyms: ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, criminal; More
          informaltough, bruiser, hardman, goon, heavy, enforcer, hired gun, hood
          “one of Capone’s thugs”
          2.
          historical
          a member of a religious organization of robbers and assassins in India. Devotees of the goddess Kali, the Thugs waylaid and strangled their victims, usually travelers, in a ritually prescribed manner. They were suppressed by the British in the 1830s.

          You see, I do not allow censors and those who would control thought and expression by eliminating the tools of it—the way to sop people calling African Americans who act like thugs thus is for them to stop acting like thugs, not to ban the word.

          Some clever race-baiters, quite recently, decided that after a series of incidents in which African Americans engaged in conduct that justified the description “thug” and were thus described, decided that they would designate the word as racist. Since I use the word correctly, and traditionally, to describe behavior, not types of individuals based on color, your comment is fatuous and false. When someone only using the term to describe blacks, that may make them racist, but it doesn’t change the meaning of the word.

          • Neil Dorr

            Jack,

            That was sarcasm. Who do you think I am? I know it isn’t racist. But calling it a racist term is similar to calling “talking points” a politically-loaded term. It isn’t. Some partisan-baiters use it that way and then people like me (who accept words at face value) get accused of saying something they didn’t.

  10. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    I suppose what bothers me about this post is that it’s more divisive than anything — an increasingly common thing in your postings. You (rightly) complain about people like Trevor Noah claiming Trump is divisive, all the while using rhetoric that is every bit (if not more) divisive than anything Trump has said.

    How does this post further the discussion about police brutality in this country? How does it enhance a discussion on race? Notice all of these rhetorical questions? I’m not sure I know the answers, I just know that reading you has become less fun and commenting even less so. You do little to educate those who disagree or don’t understand, and instead belittle them.

    I’m contradictory and inflammatory because I often write when I’ve become frustrated at something during brief moments of doing other things, and write quickly. As things comes to me, I often write more. They’re contradictory only because they’re ideas in progress. That’s my fault, I realize, not yours — However, clear thinking isn’t made any easier when you use words like “stupid” to criticize someone for having a thought they didn’t fully consider. Some of the smartest people tend to be wrong more often than right (in terms of hypothesis that are disproven), but they know how to eventually spot the truth when they see it.

    I don’t know how to state this any more plainly (and lacking in contradiction): I apologize for calling you what I did. It was meant to bother you and it did and that made me happy (which is also petty, and for which I also apologize).

    I wish you a very Merry Christmas to you and your family. If you have any appreciation in your heart for me and my past participation, please wish me a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays or whatever your choice) back — it would mean a lot. No hard feelings. Please

    -Neil

    • Pointing out divisive double standards is not divisive. This is the unforgivable tactic of the Left: Make a hateful, misleading and politically explosive assertion using false narratives, and then when it and the unethical manner of promoting the position are legitimately called out, the critics are accused of being divisive.

      Truth and facts are only divisive to people whose agendas are disrupted by them.

  11. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    All I cared about was the Merry Christmas. I was just trying to make peace.

  12. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    Above when I said I was sorry, you said it doesn’t matter. I’ve apologized and will make a concerted effort not to do it again. I’m trying to be ethical. Was the apology accepted? Are you still bothered? Did you intentionally not wish me a pleasantry back?

    It feels like an intentional snub, If it was, that’s alright, but I already have enough trouble understanding your meaning without further ambiguity.

    • It doesn’t matter. If someone’s instinct is to resort to “you’re an old man/Jew/ woman/nigger, why should I listen to you?” that’s signature significance. I would never do that, and have never done that. When someone does that to anyone, especially to me, that tells me a lot. A subsequent, “Oops, my bigotry slipped out, better apologize!” does not alter my conclusion.

      • Neil Dorr

        Jack,

        First, you seem to argue that a person can’t change — or can’t make a mistake they regret. Signature significance only works in a vacuum. Is that all I am? Is there nothing I can do?

        Second, I never said “you’re this, therefore I shouldn’t listen to you” (something I would NEVER say in your case because I actively DO listen to you). My instinct was to bother you with words I knew that would bother you. It was (and is) extremely childish.

        Look, anything I say at this point is liable to only come off as an excuse or rationalization. Does this mean your mind about me is made up for good? I guess I’m just saddened that an online acquaintanceship going back a decade would end on such bad terms over a mistake.

        You haven’t banned me, but it’s also pointless for me to continue to make any commentary if you’re only going to view it as “Oh look, more blathering from the ageist bigot.” I’m genuinely upset and would like to do anything within my power to make amends — you’re all I have left of someone (I say that only to convey how seriously I take this).

        Can we never make peace?

        -Neil

  13. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    Can I call?

    -Neil

  14. Pennagain

    There was a reference in a newspaper article not so long ago (it may have been referring to the Serna incident) responding to the question of “Hispanic” being necessary to the description given to the police, one of the comments being that in 9-1-1-speak also serves as an indication the person may be Spanish-speaking. In the case under discussion, it is probably not relevant since the police were reacting (or over-reacting) to what they thought was a dangerous situation. But it is also possible that it is not per se racist; in a less volatile situation it could be very useful information.

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