Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Shooting Death Of Peyton Ham”

Steve-O-in NJ has stepped into a temporary (I hope) vacuum of ambitious comments to monopolize the COTD field. Steve is a lot more pessimistic than I am, and prone to Jeremiads (THE END IS NEAR!) but he also is willing to make observations that most are reticent to put into print. A few of you out there hang out on my Facebook page, where my alleged friends had a meltdown over a repeat of my musings here about whether Juror 8 in “12 Angry Men” would have bothered fighting for reasonable doubt in the trial of a defendant whom he thought was probably guilty if he knew that a not guilty verdict would trigger violent riots. How dare anyone suggest that there was reasonable doubt in the Chauvin trial? How dare anyone imply that the trial wasn’t fair!

Steve-O’s point about police being in an impossible position still applies to Derek Chauvin, cruel and untrustworthy cop that he undoubtedly was. Usually that impossible position girds police from conviction in all but the most egregious examples of police misconduct, as in the case of Michael Slager. I think the public’s acknowledgement of the dilemma is appropriate and generally ethical, but it is ready-made for accusations of racism when the victim is black.

Back to the post that sparked Steve’s COTD, “Ethics Observations On The Shooting Death Of Peyton Ham”, there has been no news coverage of Ham’s death for a week. He was 16, just like the girl shot in the act of trying to stab another teen in Columbus, Ohio, but nobody in Congress or anywhere else is arguing that his youth demanded restraint by police. The reason is that Peyton Ham was a white male, and Ma’Khia Bryant was a black female. The police were supposed to understand that different standards applied. (The photo above is of the Columbus riots in response to the girl’s shooting. Somehow I can’t locate any similar photos of the protests of Ham’s death.)

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day:

Policing in the United States is fast becoming a lose-lose proposition and a job fewer and fewer people are going to want. If you take action, you are considered a thug, a bully, and automatically a racist. If you take no action, you are either lazy or dead from the neck up and need to be fired. We’ve been over this half a dozen times since the death of George Floyd. Policing is by nature a dangerous and demanding job. Policing by nature sometimes requires split-second decisions which have a tiny margin for error and possibly grievous consequences if gotten wrong. Policing is not just about crossing schoolkids, directing traffic, getting lost children home, making reports of fender benders, and once in a while giving out a ticket to someone driving a little too fast or parked in a place clearly marked “no parking.”

Even in the safest small towns in America there are always going to be domestic violence calls, holdups, drunk and disorderly conduct, kids getting into drugs, or the mentally ill who do crazy things that endanger themselves or others. Like it or not, a big part of policing involves making unwilling individuals comply with lawful orders necessary to keep order. Sometimes there is no way to make that happen but to use force. Using force isn’t pretty. It’s not pretty to slam a violent husband or boyfriend down on the kitchen table and cuff him before he hits the woman in his life again. It’s not pretty to cuff a drug-addled, emaciated streetwalker who you’ve told to move along for the umpteenth time and been met with a torrent of profanity each time. It’s not pretty to throw a reeking homeless person who’s been harassing shoppers into the back of a police cruiser to take him somewhere where he can (hopefully) get the help he needs. And no, it’s not pretty to arrest some dreadlocked thug who’s spent his whole life doing nothing but commit crimes when he commits yet another one. It’s also not pretty when a hapless wife or girlfriend gets a broken jaw or a spiral fracture of the arm from a partner who she “just wouldn’t listen to.”

It’s not pretty when a family can’t walk down the street without seeing some skeletal prostitute shooting up. It’s not pretty when everyone has to avoid the block that “Crazy Joe” has claimed as his own. It’s not pretty when DeShawn, out of prison barely a week, sticks up a bodega with a gun or hits somebody over the head because he has no money and few prospects.

Somehow, though, it’s always easier to sympathize with whoever ends up on the receiving end of the bad thing, no matter what the circumstances. The same people who would say “Geez, it’s too bad Mr. Kim’s convenience store got robbed and he got beat up, I hope he pulls through,” are the ones who’d say “Geez, was it necessary for those two cops to beat that guy so badly when they broke up the robbery? There’s got to be a better way.” You’re not supposed to say, “that idiot tried to rob Mr. Kim of his hard-earned money, thankfully the police were nearby when he tripped the silent alarm, then he was more of an idiot when he tried to fight the police. He got what was coming to him.”

Somehow also, it’s too easy to sanctify someone who’s been the victim of violence. You’ll hear about “the good kid who wanted to do good,” whose life was cut short in a gang crossfire. However, you’ll also hear about “the bright young kids with their whole lives ahead of them” who got pressed flat because they were shooting romantic pictures using a railroad bridge, and didn’t know that you won’t see or hear an approaching train until it’s almost on top of you. You’ll hear about “the beautiful, wise, good young woman destined for great things,” who’s dead because she just couldn’t bring herself to walk out on the boyfriend who smacked her around whenever he got angry. You will also hear about the “promising young black man” killed by a cop during a robbery because he “fell in with the wrong crowd” but was “just about to turn his life around when a police bullet took away that chance.” You’re not supposed to say “what happened to those kids was tragic, and more so because it was completely avoidable if they had only used their heads.” You’re not supposed to say, “Diana’s dead because she couldn’t muster up the wisdom or the will to leave someone who was making a punching bag out of her.” You’re not supposed to say, “Malik’s dead because he decided stealing from other folks at gunpoint was easier than working, but this time his luck ran out and the police shot him before he could shoot anyone else.”

Somehow this idea that the victim of violence is always blameless, no matter how the violence happened, has taken root in this country, alongside the idea that there are no heroes. When there are no heroes, there are only villains and victims. Guess which one you are if you aren’t the villain? At the same time the idea that the white race, especially white men, is evil and owes everyone else a huge debt that can never be repaid for all of history, has also taken root.

Oh, and there’s one more toxic idea that’s found it’s way into the mix here. There’s a myth that waaay back in 33 A.D. a gypsy stole the Fourth Nail from the Romans during the crucifixion, thus sparing Christ some suffering. As a result, the gypsies were forever forgiven the sin of stealing, and that’s why they frequently lived by theft, confidence gaming, and deception, not really caring who they stole from or tricked. There’s also a myth now that this country DIDN’T start in 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or in 1492 when Columbus landed on Hispaniola. It REALLY started in 1619, when the first slaves were brought to the Western Hemisphere. As a result, everything that happened since then is tainted by the wrong of slavery, and the non-white races, especially the blacks, cannot be held accountable for anything they do as long as it is done in the name of redressing that wrong.

When you put all these ideas together, there’s no wonder that now every single incident between the police and a black person that ends with a shooting or other use of force leads to riots. The circumstances are really irrelevant. What it always boils down to is that a white person, deputized to enforce the white person’s law and heir to the slave patrols, used force on a black person who was totally innocent, and, no matter what reason is given, that white person did it for no reason than the black person was black. That person must be punished forthwith and the entire community must pay, in order for there to be justice for that black person.

Come to think of it, you know what that reminds me of? In the days of the Nazi occupation of several nations, if a Nazi soldier or officer was killed, frequently the whole community would end up paying for it by violence or otherwise. This culminated in 1942, when the Czech resistance assassinated Reichsprotektor Reynard Heydrich, second in the SS only to Himmler, near the village of Lidice. In retaliation all the men of that town were executed, while the women and children, except those deemed suitably Aryan, were taken to a concentration camp and gassed. It didn’t matter what they’d done, or even if they knew about it, they were guilty of violence against a Nazi and must pay collectively. Part of it was actual punishment, part of it was sending a message, and that message was: Do not resist. Do as your masters/betters tell you. If you do not, then the fate of Lidice will befall you and yours.

The message being sent here is loud and clear too: Do not police. Do not do anything to any black person. Do as your moral superiors tell you. If you do not do so, the fate of Minneapolis and Portland and all those other places will befall you. There’s another message being sent too, to the black people: Do not obey. Do not be good citizens. Resist. No one can touch you now.

So the police don’t pull over that car. At best they are asking for trouble with the brass. At worst, they might get shot themselves, and blamed for their own deaths. Now Berkeley, CA, is going to try to create an UNARMED agency to do traffic stops. I guess the story of NJ State trooper Philip LaMonaco, shot dead during a traffic stop in 1981 by violent Marxist radicals partially because he was armed only with a service revolver against automatic weapons that carried many more bullets didn’t make its way out there. That’s when the NJSP adopted automatics themselves. Now Berkeley wants to go UNARMED? I feel like sometimes I am living in some kind of crazy parallel world of nonsense.

The police also don’t investigate that abandoned building with the door torn off. They space out their patrols less often and they don’t patrol certain areas at all. They slow walk their responses to assaults, muggings, whatever so that they arrive only in time to take a report, not to break up the assault or stop the mugging. Then they take the report back to the precinct, pass it to the squad, and the detectives file it away as yet another unsolved crime with few or no real leads to follow up on. Maybe they even say something among themselves to the effect of the victims should have used common sense, and not walked home that late, or passed through that area, or whatever, so why bother chasing a few tenuous leads that won’t pan out. Put on a fresh pot of coffee, will you? This one’s been laying for a while.

Welcome back to the bad old days of the 1970s, except this time there will be no “morning in America” and no Giuliani types to revive the cities.

6 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Shooting Death Of Peyton Ham”

  1. Right on point. It might make some sense to print this out and send it to our elected leaders and editors of our newspapers to see if it gets any traction. Real world, in your face examples, as articulated here might get some attention.

  2. Excellent observations. These protests will have real life consequences and none of them good. Steve is absolutely correct? If policing becomes a completely thankless job then who is going to want to do that job? I wonder what the statistics are on recent police retirements. We have seen cities and other municipalities effectively defund the police. What does that mean and what will the results be? Joe Biden told Ben Crump and the Floyd family that he will push for passage of the George Floyd police reform bill. In effect, that bill will federalize policing, taking it away from local authorities.


  3. The natural conclusion is going back to private policing, this move will bring gangs very much back into the business of ‘protection’. Most cultures have a vestige of this from earlier times when professional police did not exist, but I do not understand why BLM supports think they will be better treated by protection rackets than by a professional police force even given all the problems associated.

  4. I am a member of my state’s Law Enforcement Training Officers Association, and my contacts around the state tell me that virtually EVERYONE here is experiencing or anticipating a wave of retirements. In addition to the unfavorable political climate that now surrounds policing everywhere, the batches of officers hired into new positions created under the Community Oriented Policing grants beginning in 1994 are at or nearing retirement eligibility. Recruiting to fill these positions along with those resulting from normal attrition is already presenting challenges for agencies big and small. The larger city agencies are said to be having the hardest time, as I would expect. I can only imagine the retention and recruitment issues the current climate has created in cities and states more directly impacted than my own.

  5. I really cannot get who these people expect to answer the 911 call when they are robbed, their family member is attacked/raped/killed or EMT or medical personnel cannot approach an incident? I’ve known too many medical people. most minorities of one kind or another who could on police too for their safety. One Hispanic I spoke to just today said their family member in law enforcement is getting out because they don’t even have support from the public being protected. I know it’s petty, but the ones supporting defunding the police should live in a place without police and see how well gangs and protection rackets help the average person. They somehow believe their lives are magically protected, and of course no one would destroy their home and workplace because they are NICE.

    We will be returning to the free for all before Peel created the modern police force two centuries ago and it spread to other countries. We used to be a leader in techniques and standards, that anyone could call the police and crimes against poor people got addressed too. Not anymore, we’re gonna have private guard and investigation only to protect the rich like the Bow Street Runners. Poor and middle class will get revenge at most. By the time they take enough losses to understand better it will take a generation to recruit, train, and empower officers to protect the rest of us again.

    And the rest of the world will laugh at how stupid Americans are to do this to ourselves, only among progressives is pragmatism a sin.

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