Seven Ethics Observations On The Las Vegas Democratic Candidates Debate

The transcript is here.

This was certainly the most entertaining of the debates so far, not that entertainment should be the purpose of such things. The substitution of Trump-obsessed billionaire Michael Bloomberg for Trump-obsessed billionaire Tom Steyer appeared to alter the chemistry of the entire group, rendering everyone nastier and antagonistic, and to each other, not President Trump. Steyer, after all, was always a pure vanity candidate, and like Stephen Yang, irrelevant, taking up space, and clogging the pipeline for voters to figure out who might be the best candidate. Bloomberg, incompetently and hypocritically, was considered a leading contender by “experts” (incompetently) and Democrats (hypocritically) as he entered his first debate.

1. Bloomberg, as I expected but far more spectacularly than I expected, proved that he isn’t a top contender no matter how much he spends. The former NYC mayor stood there with a perpetual ‘why do I have to put up with these peasants?’ look on his face, and though he had to know he would come under fire, appeared to be unprepared.

Elizabeth Warren’s (and to a lesser extent, Joe Biden’s) crushing attack on his (terrible) responses in defense of his stop-andfrisk policies in New York City (a utilitarian toss-up, but not for a party in which racial profiling is considered per se evil) and accusations of allowing a hostile work environment in his business reminded me of Chris Christie’s merciless humiliation of poor Marco Rubio in 2016. In particular, Bloomberg was a deer caught in the headlights when challenged on his transparency and asked to release women who had made complaints in his workplace from their non-disclosure agreements. His answer– “I’ve said we’re not going to get — to end these agreements because they were made consensually and they have every right to expect that they will stay private”—was nonsense of the sort I particularly detest. No one who understands what a non-disclosure agreement is could respond to that with anything but, “Huh? How stupid do you think I am?” Bloomberg, however, was counting on the ignorance of the public.  Releasing  women from the deals they made doesn’t affect their privacy: if they don’t want to talk, they don’t have to. All it means is that they get to keep their hush money, and not lose it if they don’t hush.

Competent moderators would have and should have  pointed that out, but you know—Chuck Todd. NBC.

Bloomberg started out with deceit—“I knew what to do after 9/11 and brought the city back stronger than ever.”  He didn’t become mayor of New York until four full months after 9/11.  His performance went downhill from there. Anyone who got excited at the prospect of him being the nominee after last night needs to see a neurologist.

2. I still believe that the ethical and selfless thing for Joe Biden to do would be to withdraw from the race immediately, since he splits the more moderate vote and makes a Bernie Sanders disaster for Democrats more likely. However, this was Joe’s best debate performance so far. He seemed more energetic, focused, and avoided his usual descents into gibberish. That is not to say that his performance was especially good. It was repetitious, almost comically so.

I began to think about Mel Brooks’ “10,000-Year-Old Man” routines.  What ever the topic, say, “stop and frisk,” Biden would jump in and say something like, ‘You know, I went after “stop and frisk” before anyone here had heard of “stop and frisk”!’

3. Bernie Sanders never says anything new, but it’s pretty clear that James Carville was right: he’s a communist. He really thinks it’s wrong that some people make and keep more money than other people, and also seems to have the economically bats ideas that  billionaires make it harder for everyone else to make money, and that it is fair to take away money that A earned and give it to B, because B earned less.

Bloomberg’s single admirable moment in the debate was when Chuck Todd asked the classic idiot leftist question: “Have you earned too much — has it been an obscene amount of — should you have earned that much money?” Bloomberg answered, “Yes. I worked very hard for it.” (He immediately undermined his statement by saying “And I’m giving it all away.” That made it seem like making the money was something that required remedial action. It doesn’t. He was pandering to leftist class warfare.)

4. Elizabeth Warren was attacking everyone all night, but had the ethical moment of the debate when Telemundo’s senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc brought up Amy Klobuchar’s inability to name the President of Mexico in an interview, a non-issue that I wrote about here. After Klobuchar stumbled around trying to respond, Warren came to her rescue:

Can I just defend Senator Klobuchar for a minute? This is not right. I understand that she forgot a name. It happens. It happens to everybody on this stage. Look, you want to ask about whether or not you understand trade policy with Mexico? Have at it. And if you get it wrong, man, you ought to be held accountable for that. You want to ask about the economy and you get it wrong? You ought to be held accountable. You want to ask about a thousand different issues and you get it wrong? You ought to be held accountable. But let’s just be clear. Missing a name all by itself does not indicate that you do not understand what’s going on. And I just think this is unfair.


Then Biden went into his 10,000 Year-Old Man routine, saying, “I’m the only one who knows this man and met with him!” Yeah, that’s nice, Joe.

5. Pete Buttigieg—whom I have little enough respect for (more about that in an upcoming post) that I don’t care much what he says—did utter a statement that should disqualify him for office. He said, speaking of illegal immigrants,

“We created a municipal ID program so that Dreamers and others who were undocumented were able to navigate everyday life. We stood up for those rights and stood with members of our community with the message that they were as American as we are.”

Then he started babbling in Spanish. The man is shameless. His statement, however, is a proud admission that he created an incentive for illegal aliens to breach our laws. They have no “rights” to live here, and they are not Americans as a matter of law.

6. For once, Senator Klobuchar spoke the most words in the debate, though it was close. This was the fairest allotment time of all the debates, though I’m sure it was an accident. Much of the Minnesota Senator’s words were taken up in spats with Buttigieg over such deathless questions as who has been “in the arena.” At one point she said of the South Bend Mayor,  “He’s basically saying that I don’t have the experience to be President of the United States. I have passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat since being in the U.S. Senate. I am the one, not you, that has won statewide in congressional district after congressional district.”

Well, he’s right: a Senator with no executive experience doesn’t have the experience to be President. That’s why Senators don’t get elected President very often, and when they do, they have a very mixed record.

7. At the end, Todd asked,

“There’s a very good chance none of you are going to have enough delegates to the Democratic National Convention to clench this nomination…If that happens, should the person with the most delegates at the end of this primary season be the nominee, even if they are short of a majority?”

All of the candidates except Sanders answered that the Convention should follow the rules, which means that if no candidate has a majority, the leader isn’t guaranteed of the nomination. Sanders answered, “I think that the will of the people should prevail, yes. The person who has the most votes should become the nominee.”

Except that if that person doesn’t have a majority,  his nomination isn’t “the will of the people.”

54 thoughts on “Seven Ethics Observations On The Las Vegas Democratic Candidates Debate

  1. Bloomberg’s lack of preparedness was shocking. Did anyone try to prep him, did he refuse, did they try and were unsuccessful? Either way, he undid millions in advertisements last night.

      • Oh, I think that’s generous, slick. Trump was terrible, but he never looked like he wished he was somewhere else, or made a statement as idiotic as Bloomberg on the non-disclosure agreements. An amazing number of viewers thought he “won” the first debate, which the Fox commentators judged a disaster for him. I can’t believe anyone thought Bloomberg won anything last night.

  2. Watched about 20 minutes of last night’s debate – the first one of this political season for me. When Saturday Night Live did their parody Democratic Debate a few weeks ago, I thought that they intentionally did it as an ‘over the top’ parody. I was wrong. Based on what I saw last night, SNL undersold their product. Were I to describe last night’s clown show in a single word it would be ‘undignified’.

    • Chuck Todd is such an insufferable twerp. I’ve seen cups of soup with more gravitas than he has. In the AOC era, I guess he’s Edward R. Murrow. Not that Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley and their contemporaries didn’t consume large amounts of backdrops nightly around dinner time.

  3. his stop-andfrisk policies in New York City (a utilitarian toss-up, but not for a party in which racial profiling is considered per se evil)

    I must object to this characterization. In our society, we rightly place certain fundamental rights beyond the reach of simple utilitarian analysis*. One reason for this is that the gathering of data, its analysis, and the weighing of various goods and evils are so easily distorted depending on who gets to decide “the greater good”. The utilitarian uber alles approach is also the justification offered by the gun control movement, bans on sugary drinks or vaping, hate-speech policing in Europe, and the imprisonment of Uighurs in China. I have no doubt it was earnestly believed by the defenders of chattel slavery in America, and the segregation and anti-miscegenation laws that sprang up in its aftermath.

    Stop-and-Frisk as it was practiced under Bloomberg’s tenure, with large-scale suspicionless seizures of young men based entirely on their race, was a wholesale violation of constitutional rights. We should name it as such, and not attempt to defend it on utilitarian grounds.

    *Incidentally, the evidence for its effectiveness is highly questionable, but I don’t want to get sidetracked.

    • Stop-and-Frisk as it was practiced under Bloomberg’s tenure, with large-scale suspicionless seizures of young men based entirely on their race, was a wholesale violation of constitutional rights. We should name it as such, and not attempt to defend it on utilitarian grounds.

      Let us presume that *power* (powerful sectors in NY: business, corporations, and the general population) determined that NY had to be transformed. Since it was transformed, and is now generally considered *safe*, the plan worked out. NY was a sort of *sh*t hole* for a long time if my researches are correct. Then, they made a decision to *clean it up*. And various tactics were used. [All my understanding of NY back then came from Taxi Driver).

      The Constitution functions as a fence. But the will of powerful players and forces must achieve its will and to do so it has to brush up against the outer limits of what is Constitutionally legal. When it needs to it will completely violate the Constitution. In general they may cross the line from time to time. They know that they are doing this, but they know (the police know) that they serve power. Everyone knows that crossing the line is necessary from time to time. Citizens accept it if the benefit to them is clear. The courts can restrain excessive Constitutional violations and they do from time to time. Those cases drag on for years and are often decided in favor of those who were violated.

      Meantime, power attains what powers sets out to achieve.

      I cannot imagine how anyone could ever create a Constitutional argument that would allow stopping and frisking without cause. It is unconstitutional on the face, isn’t it?

      The problem with too much *truth-telling* (you seem to recommend this) is that if you begin in one area you might have to extend it to other areas that turn against your own interests.

      • For pity’s sake, AZ, if you have an argument to make, make it. If you think the ends justify the means, say so. If you think there really is no such thing as an ethical principle beyond raw power, say so. If you think there’s a truth that needs to be told tell it. Otherwise quit wasting my time.

        • For pity’s sake, AZ, if you have an argument to make, make it. If you think the ends justify the means, say so. If you think there really is no such thing as an ethical principle beyond raw power, say so. If you think there’s a truth that needs to be told tell it. Otherwise quit wasting my time.

          I use a *you-plural’ here. The purpose? To expose how we act which is different from how we want to be seen.

          The argument was made. The ends justify the means when your identified interests place our desired ends over the Constitutional (or ethical) principle. You will bend ethics, and you will bend ‘Constitutional law’ to suit your purposes. You will bend international law to suit your purposes when you need to. And you will crush others when they do the same thing and label them *criminals of the first order!*. You will turn your eyes away from abuses when to put too much attention on them could affect your interests. You will paint a pretty picture of what you do, even if it is ugly, when it serves your purposes. If others do this, but you don’t like what they do, you will vilify them. You will use any and all of the most underhanded tactics when you need to. You are absolute and fantastic hypocrites.

          Raw power is the basic principle of life. A person could, and sometimes does, put his and her interests aside in order to pursue an ethical objective. I admit this. But the more that people act together in groups, and when large business interests put their will and their needs into the equation, the less that this happens. What I do not fully understand is if now, specifically, in our atheistic, materialistic, mechanistic , managerially-run present, we are particularly susceptible to the seductions-of-power, or simply if it has always been like this?

          My understanding — speaking about NYC — is that there came a moment when powerful people and interests determined they would *clean it up*. To do that they had to bend law, conventions and rules. They also (obviously) had to push into actions that were Constitutionally indefensible. Yet they did this knowing that — as you say — the end they had in mind served theirselves, and many other people, more fully. So, there you have a classic instance of the ‘end justifying the means’.

          What is there exactly to *argue*? Are you asking me personally? Why bother? I don’t determine anything.

          • Nietzsche would be so proud of your will to power argument.

            So where does probable cause or for that matter curfew laws fit into this discussion. If a 16 year old or even a 36 year old, regardless of race or gender, is hanging out in the shadows at 2:30 a.m. do we not begin to wonder about their motivation for being there. Add to this chemistry an area with a high crime rate and you have a classic law abiding citizens versus the unknown with potentially aberrant behavior argument.

            • But here’s the thing: whether you agree or don’t Nietzsche exposed a fundamental truth of our time. Our own investigations & realizations brought us to it. We are in a nihilistic age. In comparison, Hamlet struggled within a world that had a natural order, and people did still believe in ‘eternal verities’. He was crushed when he began to see the truth.

              Don’t you be crushed!

              No one really & truly believes in the basic verities of decency. All the masks have been removed from ‘false-appearance’. I am sorry to be the one that has to point out that what is left is the *power* dynamic.

              Don’t despair. On the inner plane

              . . . that should learn us
              There’s a divinity that shapes our ends
              Rough-hew them how we will.

    • Well said, DaveL. I too don’t think this is a utilitarian analysis site. It is an ethics site. Stop and Frisk, something we called carding here in TO, is not supportable.

      And I don’t follow the slippery slope argument proposed by AT. That analysis works at least as well for the utilitarian analysis argument you seem to support – you could justify all sorts of bad behaviours because they are effective but, as soon as you “begin in one area you might have to extend it to other areas that turn against your own interests.”

    • When properly followed, the stop-and-frisk policies under Bloomberg, which were not solely based on race, were not u constitutional. SCOTUS approved of Stop and Frisk decades ago, and has never over-ruled the case. It also undoubtedly saved lives and got illegal guns off the street. The question is whether race can ever be a factor in decided whether there is “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is afoot. The statistical argument that it’s worth considering is strong.

      Our decision that profiling is absolutely wrong is why 6-year-old girls and 90-yearl olds in wheelchairs still get felt up by airport security. And that 1) is stupid 2) makes the whole system work poorly.

      It’s a utilitarian problem for sure, and that’s why SCOTUS has refused to revisit the issue.

      • From Wiki:

        The United States Supreme Court made an important ruling on the use of stop-and-frisk in the 1968 case Terry v. Ohio, hence why the stops are also referred to as Terry stops. While frisks were arguably illegal, until then, a police officer could search only someone who had been arrested, unless a search warrant had been obtained. In the cases of Terry v. Ohio, Sibron v. New York, and Peters v. New York, the Supreme Court granted limited approval in 1968 to frisks conducted by officers lacking probable cause for an arrest in order to search for weapons if the officer believes the subject to be dangerous. The Court’s decision made suspicion of danger to an officer grounds for a “reasonable search.”

        This implies that the officer(s) had a justifiable reason to have contact with the person. In that case — a genuine stop with solid reason to stop — it is quite reasonable that the officer pat down the person.

        But I assume that the Stop and Frisk (as the name implies) resulted in arbitrary and systematized stops expressly of those people the police thought might have weapons.

        Therefore, the law, which is a reasonable law, was violated by people and a *system* (this implies power and machinations of power) in order to affect its will: cleaning up NYC so normal decent people could move about freely and the city could prosper.

        Without doubt the practical use of the law allowed the police to do what they were told to do: harass the criminal element, and get the guns off the street.

        • A person who was young, black, wearing an unseasonable large outerwear, looking around, appearing to have a weighty object in his pocket—that would sustain a stop under Terry. The problem is that the stop might have been made on race alone. If nothing was found in the frisk, “no harm, no foul.” If a gun was found, that search would probably stand. In my twenties, I defended people arrested based on Terry stops.

          • My theory is that when abuses to the Constitution become excessive and outrageous, or when powerful people complain that they are affected by those abuses, then the *big guns* are brought in and a big show is made of defending the Constitutional principle. And the arguments are wonderful. Beautiful even. But the farther from the *principle* one moves, and the more downward into those territories when power operates more basically and brutally, the more it is understood that the rules not only be bent but that they must be bent. I think that there is a ‘general social will’ that is agreed upon.

            In a place where there are lots of dangerous and unruly ‘black bodies’, the ‘white will’ determines that this just won’t be put up with. It has to be confronted. And they confront it.

            The whole purpose though is obvious: to confront and defeat unruly black delinquency.

      • This is a motte-and-bailey argument. The “Stop and Frisk” approved in Terry v. Ohio bears no resemblance to what was enacted under Bloomberg. Terri v. Ohio demanded individual, particularized, articulable reasons for suspicion. That was and remains constitutionally defensible. But various courts since then have allowed searches to stand based on vague, subjective, and/or unverifiable factors like “furtive movement”. “Avoiding eye contact with officers” and “staring at officers” were both allowable factors, and no doubt knowing the exact amount of correct eye contact would constitute a suspicious familiarity with law enforcement procedures. The net effect was that officers tossed whoever they felt like, and mouthed the correct magic words in court. But the numbers tell the real story. Do you really buy that there was a fourfold increase in suspicious behavior even as violent crime remained steady or declined? Do you think the fraction of a percent of those searches that turned up guns support the contention that they were carried out based on individualized, reasonable suspicion?

        Bloomberg himself gave the game away when he basically admitted the purpose of the stops was deterrence. That’s not a permissible reason to detain somebody under Terry v. Ohio.

        • Someone isn’t being stopped under Terry for deterrence, but the fact that Terry stops are going on will deter. “Furtive looks” have been upheld on a case by case basis. Terrorists have been stopped based on observations of “furtive movements.” We train professionals to spot bad guys. Again–race alone is discrimination. Race PLUS other legitimate factors is not. But progressive cant holds that race can’t even be a factor. And deciding that is a utilitarian one. I don’t necessarily disagree, but it is not a slam dunk conclusion.

          • And the supposed fourfold increase in “furtive movements”? The astonishing lack of accuracy in detecting actual crimes? These show that this was not an exercise in detecting real crime via “furtive movements” or any other actual indicia of criminal activity, but explicitly to intimidate people of certain ethnicities for deterrent effect. Bloomberg basically admitted it was being done for deterrence – it was the purpose, not a happy side-effect. The facially reasonable, yet wholly unverifiable, buzzwords like “furtive movement” merely served as cover.

    • How many other laws does NYC have that are unconstitutional? Do you think NYC’s near absolute ban on possession of firearms by ‘the poors’ is Constitutional? Does it even attempt to be viable under Heller or McDonald v City of Chicago? Of course not. But it is NYC and they are above the Constitution and above all other laws, just like federal employees are.

      It isn’t just Bloomberg, it is the entire Democratic field. The Democratic Party as a whole believes that people have no inherent rights and the government only allows them to have rights when it suits the interests of the government. Which of the Bill of Rights do they think we should be allowed to keep? Maybe the third? We know they are vehemently against the 1st and 2nd. The fourth amendment is already gone. They love to make multiple laws for the same thing so you can be tried twice for the same offense, so the fifth is long gone. The whole child abuse hysteria showed that the sixth no longer applies. The seventh amendment may still exist, but you have to pay extra to exercise it. The eighth may still exist. The ninth and tenth are definitely long gone. So, we are left with the third, a seventh amendment as a ‘premium add-on’ for people who can afford it, and maybe the eighth.

  4. I agree that last night’s debate was the most entertaining, and actually felt like a debate, because people were going at each other and name checking. The previous debates, with a few exciting moments, which were few and far between, were big kumbaya hug fests. I feel like i was gypped for watching them all. I think Bloomberg wasn’t terrible, and said some good things, like that Communism sucks, but I wasn’t too impressed overall. Warren had a good attack on him, after he espoused #metoo, she asked him, how about your #metoo adjacent, Trump-like behavior, and all he could muster was that he hired lots of women. Lame! If Warren was cynical enough, she could’ve called him on hiring more women, because he only wanted to pay them $0.79 on the dollar. That would have been hilarious and the barking seals in the audience would have exploded. I agree he watered down his statement about earning his money by saying he needed to rid himself of it quick, because it’s sinful, or something.
    #5 Pastor Pete (that’s what I call him, because he likes to preach) is an asshole jerk, but his dreamer comments are in line with all the Dems. If they were all asked the question, they would all talk about how they would give out passports at the border, because it’s common sense, or it’s our values, or whatever. When he started speaking Spanish I had Vietnam War style flashbacks to Beto.
    I like how Bernie said working for oil/gas companies is immoral, and then Biden chimed in about how if you care about the world, you need to lose your job in that industry. So much for the Pennsylvania vote.

    • Bloomberg was terrible in the first half of the debate, and you “never get a second chance to make a first impression.” He was stonishingly unprepared for questions and accusations he had to know were coming. Utter arrogance.

    • “Pastor Pete” is very apt. The former South Bend Mayor (you’d think he was still in that office) is running an Obama campaign: Very preachy and sanctimonious and seemingly high-minded, but content free so a voter can read into him anything the voter wants to. He’s also running as the first gay guy president, as Obama ran as the first black guy (sort of) president. It may work. But Rush Limbaugh may be right. There may not be a groundswell of voters who want to elect the first gay president as there was a groundswell of voters who wanted to elect the first black president.

      But in any event, Mayor Pete is simply coloring within the lines and following Obama’s strategy. Very cynical and unimaginative. Small minded, I’d say. Much like Obama. There’s no there there.

        • Isn’t it funny how in left land it’s okay for black people and Muslims to be anti-gay and racist because, well, Diversity! You can be jerk if you’re a person of color! Who knew?

        • Most folks, if anything, are probably more uncomfortable that they will admit with the idea of a gay president. Political correctness hasn’t eliminated most anti-gay bias, it’s just driven it underground. We still make jokes about talking with a lisp, telling apart close together but faaaaabulous colors, excessive concern for interior decoration, anal sex (sometimes referencing a supposed high rate of anal reconstructive surgery among them), and how gays cower, cry, and wet their pants when confronted by their nemesis, the macho hetero guy.

          • I’m okay with people being different. What I’m not okay with is being told to think that because people are different they are SUPERIOR. Grrrr.

            • Didn’t you get the memo? White hetero believing men are now considered inferior in all respects. They are not as cool as people of color, not as highly favored as gays, not as smart as atheists, and not as moral as women. Besides that, their history is offensive, because they did nothing but oppress these other groups. The greatest day in this world will be when the last white heterosexual man is hung with the entrails of the last white male believing man. It will be a world where Hilaryesque women drive their hybrids around Shirley Chisholm Circle while gay couples walk through St. John park and the Cathedral becomes a homeless shelter, in the City of Munhekunhetuk (Lenape for the Hudson River). It will be a world where everyone begins the day, not with the pledge of allegiance to the flag, or, the universe forbid, a prayer (although Muslim prayers are still ok), but with the daily statement of apology to the indigenous, and a reminder of what rotten people everyone else are for what happened five centuries ago. It will be a world where the names Columbus, Jefferson, and Washington are never mentioned except to spit on them, and the names Obama, Hillary, and Sanders are carved everywhere.

              • And a world where nothing works and nothing gets accomplished. It will be absolutely medieval. Who will grow the food and haul away the garbage and make sure the faucets work? Just imagine.

  5. “…rendering everyone nastier and antagonistic, and to each other, not President Trump.”

    You don’t think it was just a strategic marketing ploy by the entire field…at this point no one is paying attention to the Democrat debates except hardcore Democrats and the chattering class. Average Americans (most of whom didn’t care before) stopped watching the ad infinitum debates awhile back. Now, the gloves can come off without risking annoying those who don’t pay attention any more, and the candidates can start trying to win those paying attention who will be more forgiving and tolerant of vicious conduct by the candidates.

    • No, I think everyone decided they had to go for a quick knock-out of Bloomberg, and that pugilistic mindset infected the whole thing. I’m also guessing, as did they, that Bloomberg’s debut would bump ratings.

      • I can’t remember. Was this the 48th or 49th debate? I’ve lost count.

        I still hate Warren. I would go (further) nuts having to listen to Sanders yelling at me for four years. Buttegieg better think of the something better than speaking in Spanish (and poorly, I might add) or he is toast – and criticizing Klobuchar for not knowing Lopez-Obrabor once is really, really, stupid. Klobuchar needs a big-girl hair cut and needs to stop saying “um” and “uh” after every word. Biden is simply done. Bloomberg was astonishingly unprepared and inept, as well as 5′ 4″ standing next to Warren. Did I forget anyone? There are so many.


  6. Michael Bloomberg Is Paying People $2500 A Month To Say Nice Things About Him On Social Media

    Welp; people are definitely saying things about him on social media today, but they aren’t really what I’d call nice.

    One of the…um…nicer:

    CNN’s Bakari Sellers: “Donald Trump will destroy Michael Bloomberg if last night is any example.”

  7. Re: Amy Klobuchar. I can’t see her or read her name without recalling her awful, awful performance during the Kavanaugh spectacle. She talked about having alcoholics in her family and tried to get Kavanaugh to admit he was an alcoholic. It was absolutely revolting and signature significance. That woman, Amy Klobuchar, is a ruthless, amoral, but nice, of course, monster.

      • I don’t even consider her Minnesota nice. She’s just despicable. Minnesota awful. And she interrogated Kavanaugh as if she didn’t even do moot court, never mind has never tried a case. Rank incompetence.

  8. In Support of Constitutional Stop and Frisk

    Dave L. said, “suspicionless seizures of young men based entirely on their race, was a wholesale violation of constitutional rights.”

    Without question this is correct. But, there seems to be an inclination to throw the baby out with the bath water in denouncing stop-and-frisk tactics. Permit me to defend the constitutional use of stop and frisk tactics as established under Terry v. Ohio, [392 U.S. 1 (1968)]. I began my law enforcement career in 1974, when Terry was still a fresh decision, and had really curtailed the number of police stops made on the often dubious grounds of unarticulated “suspicion.” Of course, the synopsis of Terry is that the Fourth Amendment is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime and has a reasonable belief that the person “may be armed and presently dangerous.”
    For their protection, after a person has been stopped, police may perform a quick surface search or “pat-down” of the person’s outer clothing for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is armed. Reasonable suspicion must be established based on “specific and articulable facts” and not merely upon an officer’s intuition or “gut feeling.” (Reasonable suspicion, sometimes called “articulable suspicion,” is a lower standard than “probable cause.” If an officer has probable cause, an arrest is usually made which moves the encounter to an entirely different level.) Detention and limited searches made under these guidelines have become known as “stop and frisk” encounters or “Terry stops”.
    I learned about Terry stops in the police academy in 1974, and for the next forty years I practiced Terry stops, reviewed Terry stops as a supervisor, taught Terry stops as an agency trainer and police academy instructor, and investigated citizen complaints about Terry stops. I cannot attest to how Terry stops were performed by NYPD or other agencies outside of my region where I am familiar with the accepted standards of training and practice. Always, the boundaries of Terry vs. Ohio were my touchstone and guideline. For example, the decision addresses the stop and the frisk separately. So, sometimes an officer might have articulable suspicion sufficient to initiate a stop, but not sufficient to perform a subsequent involuntary frisk. In such cases the officer needs to obtain consent for the pat-down, which was given in probably 99% of cases.
    My county is about 87% Caucasian, 6% Hispanic, and 5% African American, which means that far more Terry encounters were with white citizens than minorities, and complaints about “unjustified” stops were made more often by white citizens. In investigating such complaints, we found that while the Terry stops were almost always well-founded, some officers were occasionally remiss in being courteous, explaining to citizens exactly what behavior and circumstances led to their being stopped, in apologizing to the “non-criminal” citizen for the inconvenience, and thanking them for their cooperation(as was our policy). So the majority of issues were not due to a faulty legal basis for the stop, but rather poor interpersonal communications. When officers used good communications skills along with sound Terry principles, there were very few conflicts. Much training effort was directed at teaching and institutionalizing those skills.
    One of the primary things we expect police to do is to prevent crime. Often, this requires officers to check out people whose behavior does not fit the time, the place, or the circumstances, or in other words, is “suspicious.” Terry established the legal constitutional basis for doing so in a manner that minimizes the intrusion, making stop and frisk an invaluable policing tool.

    • … which reminds me. In December 1969 I was flying home from upstate New York to Miamuh, Florida and making a connection in the Philly airport. I had a full beard and, believe it or not, hair, that was a little long and was attired in my Goodwill Store men’s overcoat and a snap brimmed hat. Wearing jeans and probably engineer’s boots. Strolling down the jetway to my plane, a guy grabbed me, pushed me against the wall of the jetway, frisked me, then pushed me on my way without saying a word. I didn’t even turn around or even think much of it, assuming I fit the profile of an anarchist hippie. The presumably FBI agent wasn’t pleasant and he didn’t apologize or explain. He was just doing a dangerous, thankless job.

      People need to realize to one extent or another we all dress in costumes. Which was one of the things that made the NBA players wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin so incredibly disingenuous.

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