Ethics Miscreants In Yet Another Police-Involved Death Ethics Train Wreck

Ronald Greene

Another death of a black man in an encounter with the police has re-emerged from 2019, this time from Louisiana. It has even more of the unethical elements of past tragedies/botches/fiascos than usual, and the cast of characters are all playing their now familiar parts to maximize the likelihood of protests, riots, political grandstanding and confusion, not to mention more deaths and further damage to race relation and law enforcement. Good job, everyone!

This is a true ethics train wreck, because nobody, literally nobody, who has been involved with the episode so far has behaved ethically. At this point, I see no hope that the mess can be cleaned up, but maybe we can learn something from how thoroughly another Police Meet Black Lawbreaker disaster has been mishandled by everyone to ensure the worst conceivable outcome. In no particular order, here is a list of those responsible for the Ronald Greene Ethics Train Wreck.

1. The Louisiana state police. This is the only place to start: the police screwed up, a black man died, and they tried to cover it up. Once the authorities have done that, there is no going back: they are presumptively villains, racists, murderers. The facts barely matter. Maybe somebody said that a cover-up was necessary because there would be inevitable Black Lives Matters demonstrations and maybe violence if the facts were admitted and release. After all, the troopers involved were white. Maybe someone was afraid of having to pay damages to the family once Ben Crump or an equivalent predator trial lawyer swooped down on the case like a hawk on a rat. It doesn’t matter why or how the cover-up came about now, but it certainly did.

Greene was a 49-year-old man who lived in Monroe, Louisiana. He was, as far as we know, driving to meet his wife in Florida and died shortly after midnight on May 10, 2019. The authorities told Greene’s family that he died from injuries he sustained when his car crashed into a tree outside Monroe after he refused to stop for state troopers as they tried to pull his car over for a traffic violation. A single-page crash report said only that troopers tried to stop Greene for an unspecified traffic offense, that he refused to pull over and troopers pursued him.The Union Parish coroner ruled Greene’s death accidental and due to cardiac arrest.

But the dashcam and bodycam footage that was mysteriously withheld, and it did not support that narrative. Eventually, it was shown to the family, who sued the town and police a year after the accident, in May 2020. A few teeny details had not been included in the report.

The films show Greene’s SUV stopped on the side of the road, presumably after the police chase. Troopers open the door and shock Greene with a stun gun, as Greene screams, “I’m sorry” and “I’m scared.” One officer wrestles Greene to the ground, puts him in a chokehold and punches him in the face. Another trooper is seen briefly dragging Greene by shackles on his ankles as he lay on the ground. Greene was jolted again by a stun gun as he lay handcuffed on the ground. He lay facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as troopers wiped blood from their hands and faces. “I hope this guy ain’t got AIDS,” one of the troopers said. Another trooper can be heard saying that he had beat Greene: “Choked him and everything else, trying to get him under control…[he was] “still fighting and we were still wrestling with him, trying to hold him down, ’cause he was spitting blood everywhere — and then, all of a sudden, he just went limp…. I thought he was dead.”

2. Louisiana. The state, faced with a video record of police brutality that appears worse than what befell George Floyd, delayed releasing the tapes. A State police spokesman said that the agency could not yet release it because the encounter was the subject of an administrative and criminal investigation, but the federal investigation didn’t start until after the family’s law suit was filed, a year after Green’s death. This kind of delay, which happens frequently in these events, looks like “Let’s keep this away from the media and the pubic as long as we can while we get out stories straight,” because that’s what it is. The delay makes the government and law enforcement appear guilty, implies a cover-up, and destroys any reason for the public to trust or believe the police.

3. The victim. As is the case in almost all of the alleged “racist killings” by police, Richard Greene would almost certainly be alive if he had just pulled over and followed police instructions. Instead, he tried to elude the police. Resisting arrest is the common denominator of these tragedies. It’s illegal, it’s reckless, it’s dangerous (he was pursued at more than 100 mph), and it cannot be removed from the equation, though the news media and activists try mightily to do so.

4. The news media. Here is how the Times describes Greene: “He was married, worked as a barber, and had recently gone into remission after battling cancer for two years.” The sanctification of all black victims in police actions is now the norm. A few paragraphs later, we learn that he “failed to stop immediately for a traffic violation.” Oh, right: in the first sentence of its article, the Times mentioned “a chase.” That’s deceit, a deliberate misrepresentation. In other sources, we learn that Greene was speeding away from police at more than a hundred miles an hour. Why did the Times omit that fact in an article headlined, “What We Know About Ronald Greene’s Death”? It’s obvious, isn’t it? The Times wants to make the black victim appear as blameless as possible, and the state police, who hardly need any assistance in this regard, to look as bad as possible. The phenomenon of police reacting emotional and vindictively after a high speed chase is well documented; it’s illegal and a marker of poor training, but nonetheless the eluding driver created the catalyst for his own abuse.

5. The race-baiters and inciters. After the AP got a hold of the dashcam and bodycam footage and released it to the news media, MSNBC’s host Tiffany Cross, ranted on the air,

“I am outraged, and exhausted, and angry. That video is practically unwatchable. And I think about that man’s family, and his mother, and what they must be going through. And I just wonder— this is clearly not a system that can be reformed, and I just— what can we do to stop this? Because it feels like it’s just time to burn it down, you know? We ask, please stop killing us. It hasn’t happened. At this point it’s a demand and it’s still happening. I don’t even know the words to describe the level of outrage I feel thinking about what this man’s— his mother had to watch that tape. You’ve organized all over the country. I am so ready for this fight. I am so ready for this fight, because I don’t want to see another person go through that. How do we organize ourselves out of this quagmire? They’re attacking our voting rights. They’re attacking our lives and livelihoods. They’re killing us if they’re not over-criminalizing us and putting us in jail. As a longtime organizer what is it that we do?”

There will be more like that. This is incitement to riot by definition, in addition to having no relationship to journalism or responsible punditry. News and broadcast organizations have an ethical obligation to stop their employees from behaving like this; instead, they encourage it.

I see no end to this cycle of stupidity, incompetence, violence and hate until each category above begins reforming its conduct and behaving ethically.

Realistically, what are the chances of that?

In the clips published by the A.P., covering more than two minutes, Mr. Greene is seen being jolted again with a stun gun while lying handcuffed on the ground.

The A.P. reported that the troopers, who were white, left Mr. Greene lying facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they wiped blood from their hands and faces. “I hope this guy ain’t got AIDS,” one of the troopers is heard to say, adding an expletive.

Video from several minutes later shows Mr. Greene limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face, and he is then seen being loaded onto an ambulance gurney with his arm cuffed to a bedrail, according to The A.P.

In one body camera video that the state police later released, a trooper can be heard saying that he had beat Mr. Greene, using an expletive. “Choked him and everything else, trying to get him under control,” the trooper says.

After Mr. Greene was in handcuffs, the trooper says, he was “still fighting and we were still wrestling with him, trying to hold him down, ’cause he was spitting blood everywhere — and then, all of a sudden, he just went limp.”

“Yeah,” the trooper continues. “I thought he was dead.”

13 thoughts on “Ethics Miscreants In Yet Another Police-Involved Death Ethics Train Wreck

  1. “Realistically, what are the chances of that?”

    Nada.

    What happened here is a reason to settle with the family and discipline the officers involved, up to a point. It is not an excuse to trash policing generally or riot. Still, two attitudes need to change.

    The first is that the badge is the license that gives an officer the power to use necessary force to defend himself and get a suspect into custody. It is not a knight’s or nobleman’s shield that elevates those who bear it above those who do not. I remember in college I read the different codes of chivalry. Along with all the usual stuff, it requires: “honor to all above your station, respect for your peers and equals, honor from all below your station, scorn for those who are lowly and ignoble…” it also grants the right to use force if disrespected. Sounds good in a Walter Scott novel, but this isn’t one. Police are not a cut above ordinary folks, they are called public SERVANTS for a reason. Yes, occasionally someone is going to do something crazy, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Even if someone resists or flees, the role of the officer is to take him into custody for due process later. It isn’t his role nor his right to administer abuse to or pursue a personal vendetta against anyone. The days of Andy Sipowicz kneeing a suspect in the groin or Hank Voight smashing a suspect’s hand with a pool cue are over. They should never have begun.

    The second is the rapidly emerging attitude that somehow black people are entitled to treat the police the same way feminists wants women to treat men: with suspicion, fear, distance, and defiance.

    Don’t trust any man, he might be a rapist. Also don’t trust any cop, he might be a racist bully. Stay the hell away from men you don’t personally know, and keep alert and ready to flee or fight around the ones you do. Also stay the hell away from cops not known to you personally, and don’t tell the ones you do know anything more than you absolutely must, or spend any more time around them than you must.

    If you see a man you don’t know coming, don’t make eye contact, don’t acknowledge him or say a word, and put as much distance between you and him as you can. Also if you see a cop, don’t make eye contact, don’t say a word, and get the hell out of his line of sight as quickly as you are able. If you can possibly get away, floor it. Local cops won’t follow you out of jurisdiction, and a lot of jurisdiction’s rules of engagement prohibit police from pursuing after a certain speed. There’s a good chance once your speedometer hits 90 you’ll be home free, at least until you can get out of sight.

    If a man does manage to close with you, don’t make eye contact, don’t say a word, don’t give any indication you want to interact. If he speaks, tell him you aren’t interested in talking to him, and say no more. Same as if a cop does manage to close with you, tell him you don’t consent to anything, you won’t produce anything he asks for without a warrant, tell him you weren’t doing anything wrong, tell him you won’t speak without a lawyer present, assert your rights. If he yells at you, ignore it or yell back, so he knows you’re not intimidated. If he tries to initiate force, resist with any and all means necessary. It’s especially effective to keep one hand out of reach so he can’t cuff you. Keep your phone camera on, or go live, so that the world will see this. Police officers don’t like to be on camera, because it means they might be held accountable later.

    Men are not your friends. They are predators and rapists in waiting who just want one thing. They are also idiots who think with the little head too much. Make it clear you are too smart, too strong, and too empowered for that. Likewise, police are not your friends. They are the football players, the weightlifters, and the bullies who grew up and got a badge so they could keep bullying and get paid for it . Most of them are also racists, misogynists, homophobes, and everything-phobes who would love nothing better than an excuse to beat or kill anyone darker than Liv Tyler, less masculine than Chuck Norris, or who speaks differently than Christopher Plummer. Make it clear you’re onto them, and they’ll crumple.

    As long as people think like this, reform is going no place.

  2. Steve makes some trenchant -and accurate- points. When my former agency was making a transition to a community policing approach back in the mid-1990s, we realized one of the key prerequisites to building a better relationship with any community is a basic “assumption of good will” on the part of both the police and participating community members. I think Steve’s comment illustrates how and why there is often no longer an assumption of good will –in fact, just the opposite- from large segments of minority communities. The police almost everywhere have also become understandably wary as attacks on officers increase and media-fueled anti-police sentiment is made to seem the norm. Bridging this gulf is indeed a daunting if not impossible task at present.

    • My longtime usenet ally, Christopher charles Morton, explains why this assumption of goodwill does not exist and presently should not exist in Chicago.

      https://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2011/08/police-supt-mccarthy-legacy-of-racism-plagues-todays-police-officers.html?cid=6a00d83451b4ba69e2014e8ad3de79970d#comment-6a00d83451b4ba69e2014e8ad3de79970d

      The truth is that the rank and file of the Chicago Police Department has operated beyond the rule of law for so long that they simply will not tolerate ANYONE who even hints at reining them in. This is an institutional problem of long standing… such long standing that it was an old story when my late grandmother was a trainee ambulance driver for WWI.

      Will this ever change? It’s doubtful. Who were the victims of Jon Burge’s torture ring? Blacks. Who elected and reelected for 20+ years as mayor, the man who was Cook County State’s Attorney during the height of the reign of terror? Blacks. It’s like French Jews voting for Klaus Barbie as Mayor of Lyon.

      As far as I can see, Chicago is the way it is because the people are content to have it so. And that includes having a police department inside of which a home invasion and kidnapping ring could operate for YEARS without anybody seeing ANYTHING.

      • It is hard (for me, anyway) to imagine a large agency like Chicago PD being allowed to run out of control for so long. It seems it really is a case of the state’ politics being subservient to the city’s politics. In my state, I am sure that the state government would intervene at some point and take control of any agency that ran amuck to such an extent. It has happened to a few small agencies that became ticket-writing factories or where officials flagrantly did not follow state POST rules, but the largest municipal agency in this state is only one sixth the size of Chicago PD. Time for Illinois to step up and reform the agency, daunting though the task may be. As a charter entity, Chicago is legally subject to state control, and I would bet they violate many terms of their charter daily.

    • Great comment. Depressing, but true.It’s rapidly getting to the point that everyone, from straight, white men on one side and, well, everyone else on the other, are feeling unbearably provoked and maligned. One group is being lied to and manipulated, the other is being unfairly demonized. It’s reaching critical mass, and has its own motive force. The provokers of all this evil can now just kick back and enjoy the show.
      May they rot in the deepest, hottest rung of Hell for all eternity.

  3. The delay makes the government and law enforcement appear guilty, implies a cover-up, and destroys any reason for the public to trust or believe the police.

    A cover-up is strong circumstantial evidence of guilt.

    In other sources, we learn that Greene was speeding away from police at more than a hundred miles an hour.

    That was as dangerous as shooting a firearm in random directions ina crowded place.

    If they had an AH-1S Cobra helicopter, they would have been perfectly justified to fire as TOW missile to stop the car.

    But that was while the car was moving. When he pulled over, he stopped being a threat.

    He was in fact, being restrained.

    How do we organize ourselves out of this quagmire? They’re attacking our voting rights. They’re attacking our lives and livelihoods. They’re killing us if they’re not over-criminalizing us and putting us in jail.

    And yet, people like her keep voting for politicians who perpetuate this.

    Look at Chicago. A former mayor actually withheld videotape of a shooting to help his own re-election campaign!

    By the way, which party wants stricter gun control laws? is that not the very definition of over-criminalization?

  4. This is a great case for BLM. This is the kind of case they should be screaming from the rooftops. This is the kind of thing where I think that if not everyone, a vast majority of stakeholders would agree, was just wrong.

    Which is why we won’t hear about it a week from now.

    They’ll riot, protest and burn their own neighborhoods to the grounds over the shittiest fact patterns imaginable, but not over a man beaten to death because he was quote: “still fighting and we were still wrestling with him, trying to hold him down, ’cause he was spitting blood everywhere” as if the man just randomly developed mouth stigmata. BLM Doesn’t care. They don’t actually care about dealing with Police brutality, Police brutality is just the leverage they’re using to get unrelated policy prescriptions though.

    But I could be wrong, I suppose. We’ll see how many times I hear “Ronald Greene” over the next few days.

      • I think John Crawford III will remain *the* best case.

        Crawford was buying a pellet gun from a Wal Mart, he was carrying the pellet gun around the store. Someone saw that and called the cops, reporting that Crawford was carrying a shotgun, the police arrived on scene and shot him without warning.

        The events were recorded on CCTV, Crawford’s “gun” was in the crook of his arm and pointed to the ground while he was examining items on a shelf when he was shot multiple times from behind. Worse, Ohio is an open carry state, so that gun could have *been* a shotgun, and it still might have been legal for Crawford to be carrying it.

        • The Crawford case was indeed (in my opinion) an egregious overeager use of deadly force by responding officers. The security video casts doubt on the police claim that they ordered Crawford to drop the gun, in response to which they alleged he turned and moved so as to escape. Neither state authorities or the Obama DOJ charged the officers, and the family’s civil suit was settled. This killing happened less than a week before the fatal Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and I think that case sucked up all the oxygen for an active BLM response. I believe BLM finally made it there to Beavercreek, Ohio the following summer. Beavercreek’s demographics were certainly less favorable to BLM activities, with only a 2.5% African American population. On paper, the Beavercreek PD looks like a responsible, well run agency. They are CALEA accredited which usually means they would have high recruitment and training standards. To deny that there were obvious problems with the use of deadly force in this incident would be ridiculous, and I would hope the issues raised have been dealt with internally by the police department.

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