Ethics Quiz: Timing!

Remember this post about the woman who called the cops on a bird-watcher who told her to leash  her dog?

At the end of May, right before a vicious Minneapolis cop (but not necessarily a racist one) knelt on Georg Floyd’s neck and set off a series of events that are too insane and serious to describe in a long introductory clause, the pundits and social media were buzzing about Cooper vs Cooper, the confrontation in Central Park that prompted Amy Cooper to dial 911 and  say that “an African American man” was threatening her life. Christian Cooper, the black bird-watcher, videoed the whole exchange, posted it, and Amy was quickly relegated to Cancelled For Racism Hell, losing her dog, her job, and maybe getting banned from Central Park.

I assumed that Amy’s  public shaming had been truncated by the George Floyd Freakout, but no: yesterday we learned that New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.  has charged her with falsely reporting the confrontation, a misdemeanor. She was ordered to appear in court on Oct. 14.

No doubt, the charge is justified. It was a false report. It was not a report that threatened the other Cooper with imminent death by cop, as he suggested to Don Lemon on CNN, unless he was planning on grabbing a cop’s taser and trying to shoot him with it or something crazy like that, just to name a wild hypothetical.

Still, the timing is troubling. Now that White Lives Don’t Matter and any offense to African Americans is considered a perpetuation of institutional racism, Vance decided that a prosecution was in order when all indications had been that the matter was considered closed.

As we have discussed, “she’s suffered enough” is not favored on Ethics Alarms as a rationalization for not enforcing the law. However, seeking to curry favor with the predominant zeitgeist is also an unethical justification for piling on. Nobody was harmed in this ugly but ultimately minor episode. Both parties contributed to its escalation. To me, Vance’s sudden interest in making sure his constituents know he threw the book at that racist white lady reeks of grandstanding and virtue-signaling, as well as cruelty.

Moreover, I’d say Amy Cooper has not merely suffered enough for her outburst of white arrogance and her abuse of 911. In losing her job, her dog and her reputation as a trivial dispute in the park was blown up into a national  outrage, she has already suffered too much.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is charging Amy Cooper now fair and ethical?

22 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Timing!

  1. I agree with your piling on assessment however, he filing of a police report is a crime. Unfortunately, the vigilantes decided to inflict punishment before the allegation was legally adjudicated. That was the piling on. She needs to appear in court but I think her dog should be returned to her at a minimum. I know that many demanded the she be virtually lynched for her treatment of the dog at the time. Because I did not see the video – and I will not debate her actions – I believe that unless she has a demonstrated history of animal abuse a one off event captured on video during an altercation like this one might not prove her inability to care for her dog. I would not want any of my pets to be taken away if I ever lost my temper at one.

    • I would not have given her a damn dime. I just know that the relationship between a human and a pet can be stronger than human to human ones. I don’t think people realize that pets with strong bonds to their humans suffer more when they lose their human. I am thinking of the dog’s feelings more than hers.

  2. This seems like a lack of prosecutorial discretion. I can’t imagine that it’s common for people to actually be called to court for misdemeanor false reporting… I suppose I could be wrong, and if I am, I’ll reevaluate this…

    But if the norm was for shitty confrontations like this to quietly go away, then the lack of discretion seems to stem from public pressure, and I’m really skeptical of any process stemming from public pressure.. The cases always seem overblown, prosecutors have the penchant to overcharge, and at the end of the day the cases seem more often than not to lose. It seems to be not a function of justice, but a punishment by bureaucracy… Which is abhorrent, even when it happens to bad people, which I think applies here.

  3. …and she’ll probably be sentenced to community service, cleaning up after dogs in Central Park. The people who are being unjustly shamed are all the women in the world named “Karen”. There should be a class action defamation suit by Karens against whomever uses the term.

    • Considering the two wonderful women I know by that name, I agree wholeheartedly. It is a prime example of an out-of-control so-called “social” media.

  4. Which part is false? According to him he did threaten her. He told her if she did not modify her behavior she would not like what he does next. He bragged about it on Facebook. He even carries treats to lure dogs away from their owners. And those would never ever be poisoned.

    • It occurs to me that if Christian was a white man, HE would’ve been the one having his life shattered, for daring to assert his male dominance over a poor defenseless woman walking alone with her dog. Doubly so if Amy was black.

      • That is what I did not understand about this situation. The first “Karen” I recall hearing about was the lady in Oakland who called the cops on the guys BBQing in the park. Now that park has a rule about charcoal grills (I think it has to do with birds), so she was right, although petty.

        This lady was wrong to not have her dog on a leash, that is also a park rule (oddly again to do with birds), and in this instance the guy was right, but petty, but the backlash is the other direction.

        It is a confusing world, especially for us in GenX and probably the late Boomers, as we were raised with MLK’s philosophy. Judge a person by character, not skin color. So these two situations seem very similar to me, but with totally opposite reactions from the public. The only difference is skin color. That seems like a backslide to me.

        We now have college kids demanding segregated housing and classes. We have idiots (this is on the left, not right mind you) saying strange things like: Black people are too dumb to get an ID. They seem to think that black people have no agency. I have heard Jews referred to as Nazi’s, black people called white supremacists, and gay people called homophobic. I mean 1`984 seemed a bit outrageous with the new speak stuff, but we are literally there now. Maybe we have just neglected to teach them history and they are too stupid to understand how vile and racist these positions are.

        • Speaking for the Silent Generation … best known underground as The Thoughtful Generation, the current one should be known as the New Maenads.

    • I was about to bring this up, but then saw that you did. I agree, from what I understand of his own posting and words, that certainly could be construed as a threat.

  5. At this point it seems disproportionate. The NYC taxpayers are going to pay how much for a piece of legal theater? Who does it really serve? Not the people of NYC.

  6. I don’t think there’s any way she’s guilty. Cooper’s statements to her were a not-so-veiled threat. She had every right – and I think every responsibility – to call for some backup. What would have been better was to just turn around and walk away, but calling the police wasn’t filing a false report.

    I just don’t see how this charge will stand up to scrutiny. Again, hindsight prophets are never wrong, and it’s easy to judge in light of what did happen when everyone knows what did happen. It’s easy to know the past. She was the one who, at the time, didn’t know the future.

    I’m not sure about fair, but it seems very unethical to me.

    • Mr Cooper’s reaction?

      On Monday, Amy was charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor that could land her a one-year sentence behind bars. Christian, however, isn’t interested in pursuing charges against her. In a statement per The New York Times, Christian said, “On the one hand, she’s already paid a steep price. That’s not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on. So if the DA feels the need to pursue charges, he should pursue charges. But he can do that without me.”

      No word yet if the DA will compel him to testify under oath via subpoena.

      • I may elaborate on this tomorrow. Chris Cooper wrote on social media that before his camera started rolling, he said something to Cooper #2 that could be interpreted as a threat: “Then I’m going to do what I want, and you won’t like it.” When he pulled out the treat and attempted to entice the dog to come to him, he was also breaking a law.

        This seems like less kindness than self interest. Everyone involved in this mess has behaved badly.

  7. Whoa! Two words: “Jussie” and “Smollett.” Black guy stages an entire event and then reports it to the police and is not prosecuted for anything by a black DA?

    Frankly, I’ve never understood the outrage about this woman calling the cops on this guy. The 911 operator’s first question would have been “Can you describe this man?” The guy did evidently make some pretty threatening statements to her. I’ve been walking in the morning these days for the little exercise I get. It’s remarkable how uncomfortable women of all ages look when they’re walking on the street and a guy walks past them. Suppressed terror seems to be the standard reaction in such a situation. I find it amazing and striking, but ubiquitous.

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