Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: The Portland Police Bureau”

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My designation as unethical of the Portland police’s desperate tweet to avert a riot—funny, I had come to the conclusion that Portland liked riots—informing the Antifa and others that the victim of a fatal police-involved shooting wasn’t black as was being reported so there really was nothing to get all worked up about (My interpretation of the tweet’s meaning; some disagree) sparked interesting reactions, but none more welcome than that of veteran commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod, who had been AWOL for far too long. Here is his (its?) Comment of the Day—#26, by my count—on the post, “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: The Portland Police Bureau”…

This story is ominously reminiscent (differences in power dynamics notwithstanding) of an old Jewish joke–a bit of gallows humor. I can’t find the source for it at the moment, but it was set in either the first half of the 20th Century or earlier, and a Jewish community in or near a city was panicking because a girl in the area had been found murdered. The community they knew the gentiles’ antisemitism would lead them to blame the Jewish community and lash out with violence and more bigotry. Then the rabbi arrives to calm the crowd, “It’s alright, everyone! I have good news! The murdered girl was Jewish!”

The urge to do violence without having first gathered all relevant facts comes from fear, which comes from mistrust. In order to build trust, you first have to set mutual expectations, and then demonstrate you will fulfill them even when it’s costly. Humans seem to find setting expectations more difficult than it really needs to be. “What do you expect to happen in this situation? What would you have me do?” You must do this for as many distinct and likely situations as you can think of, unless you can establish general underlying principles. If you can’t work out mutually acceptable courses of action and the risks they entail even by thinking outside the box, then you would next try to prevent those situations.

When people can’t agree on acceptable risks, then they should not be together in the same situation, taking risks that affect each other. That would result in de facto social segregation based on culture, which is actually fairly normal for Earth. It’s why different countries and cultures exist, and why different states in the United States have different laws, such as whether you’re allowed to refuel your own automobile by yourself. Still, I’m fairly certain humanity can do better than fragmenting into segregated communities for every socioeconomic problem. The first approach should be building, not breaking.

10 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Tweet Of The Month: The Portland Police Bureau”

  1. “The urge to do violence without having first gathered all relevant facts comes from fear, which comes from mistrust. In order to build trust, you first have to set mutual expectations, and then demonstrate you will fulfill them even when it’s costly.”

    If the goal is to shift power dynamics then mistrust is used by a few to foment that violence. Those who want to become the power brokers will never allow mutual expectations to occur. Hence the phrase ‘they are always moving the goalposts’.

    The only expectations in the United States is that people be responsible for themselves and respect other people’s property. How damn hard is that to accomplish.

  2. “The urge to do violence without having first gathered all relevant facts comes from fear, which comes from mistrust. ”

    Sometimes. Sometimes it just comes from hatred and looking for an excuse to act on that hatred or something to cover acting on that hatred. In India if I am a Hindu and dislike my Muslim neighbor, it’s a pretty easy task to kill a pig and throw its head into the local mosque, a major desecration. The Muslims won’t care so much about who did it as about revenge, and will of course retaliate by killing a cow, an equal desecration. Before long there’ll be a religious riot, during which I can hit my neighbor over the head with a wrench and no one will give a damn. In one of these cities if I want to steal downtown blind, all I have to do is wait for a shooting, then stir up the fact it was a black guy killed by a cop. Instant riot, because the urge to retaliate is stronger than the urge for justice.

  3. “In order to build trust, you first have to set mutual expectations, and then demonstrate you will fulfill them even when it’s costly.”

    Given my background in helping develop and implement the community policing strategy in my former agency, these words strike a familiar note, and point to the only path of which I am aware that can re-establish a “normal” trusting relationship between police and citizens in America’s numerous broken communities. The issues of mistrust and misunderstanding we faced in the late 1980s were, in retrospect, miniscule compared to the chasm which has developed between these troubled communities and their police. Until the people elect leadership that supports effective policing, little is likely to change
    Building trust requires a constant ongoing dialog between police and other community residents and stakeholder organizations. Only through effective partnerships with other government service organizations, the business community, schools, churches and community leaders and neighborhood groups can a comprehensive proactive approach to community safety be achieved.
    One of the many things we learned in our transition from traditional, “911-driven” policing was that in many cases our suppositions about particular neighborhoods, and indeed the general community perceptions of particular neighborhoods, were often wrong. Based on numbers of calls for service and reported crimes, we had traditionally considered some neighborhoods as “bad” and being inhabited primarily by criminals and their enablers. When we focused on getting to know those “bad” neighborhoods and listening to the residents there, we learned that only a small minority had any connection to crime or criminals -except as actual or potential victims of crime- and the large majority wanted law and order as much as any neighborhood. We didn’t know them and they didn’t know us.
    One of the obstacles to effective partnership is the agenda-driven participation of self-appointed community “gatekeepers” who presume to speak for the community or some significant subset thereof without any real authority or legitimate constituency. Usually, private conversations with a broad cross section of community members will unmask those who speak only for themselves or on the part of some narrow interest group with an axe to grind, or who seek to expand their own influence to the detriment of the community at large. Often, we just asked people in one-on-one encounters, “Who do people in this neighborhood really listen to? Who do they trust?” This led us to many people -real community leaders- who held no title or office but had real credibility and influence. Another frequently asked question was, “How are we doing?” This was not a rhetorical inquiry, we really wanted to know.
    Our experiences in implementing community policing could make a long chapter in my yet-to-be-written memoir, but I will spare this audience from that ordeal and end with a couple of points. One, people of good will must find strength in numbers and courage in their convictions in order to make themselves heard above “the few, the loud, the malcontents” who will NEVER support the “unity” in community.” Second, police agencies must commit, top to bottom, to the often-touted but seldom practiced concepts of transparency and accountability. No hidden agendas, no cover-ups, no excuses. Accountability must spread from the agency outward to the community. To be thought of as the good guys, police must BE the good guys. As in all human leadership endeavors, character is paramount. As a trainer, I used to say that I could train most any reasonably intelligent person of good character to be an effective police officer, but absent good character, all of my efforts would be in vain. It is always important to remember that trust is gained dearly, but can be lost very quickly.

    • All excellent points. Nicely done.

      The real issue, though, is that the police chief felt he had to clarify that the police shot a white guy to stop violence. I suspect that your points about mistrust and/or fear are irrelevant to antifa and their ilk. They look for reasons to destroy things because they are anarchists and opportunists.


      • The toxicity of the environment is appalling.
        The police chief only kicked the can down the road. It’s a matter of time until chaos combines the appropriate racial backgrounds and there’s nothing the chief can tweet to prevent violence in that case.
        Will there be any protest if the investigation reveals this person was unjustifiably killed?
        Would society be better off if the chief instead posted that there would be a complete investigation and transparency, let the people march and expend the energy, burn down their torches, and realize later that their protest was fueled by an assumption of racism not in line with reality?
        Would that instead temper attitudes and build trust faster than a simple “Don’t riot for this life, he’s not among who you all are chanting that matters?”

    • Thanks Jim. My thought for the day is if you need the police to heal your “community,” it’s too late. It’s like asking the Fire Department to do fire prevention. If you need the Fire Department, it’s too late. There’s a fire! Police can’t create safe neighborhoods. The neighborhood needs to be filled with the people and structures that make a neighborhood safe. Let’s face it, if you need a cadre of social workers to come in to fix things in a neighborhood (this is the ruse of defunding the police really meaning reallocating monies to social services), it’s too late. Government programs can’t fix these sorts of problems. Cops are there to take care of the bad guys, remove them from the neighborhood. They aren’t there to raise young people and keep them in school. This is analogous to using military forces for “nation building.” Too broad a mission. Anyway, just some random thoughts.

      • The basic building block is the family, and if the parents aren’t doing their part to keep kids in school, out of trouble, and on track to being responsible people, then that’s one strike. Whether it’s because they are too into their work or just not there isn’t really relevant. The second building block is the neighborhood, and if the locals aren’t doing their part to look out for one another, help one another when needed, summon help timely, and so on from the get go, that’s two strikes. The next building block is the values, and if neither family nor school nor church is instilling them, from the get-go, then that’s the third strike.

        The lack of these things is why do-gooders can’t just breeze into a crappy neighborhood, start a community center or garden, and turn things around, no policing needed. Kids from lousy households with parents not teaching values aren’t going to want to sign up for volunteering or enrichment, and if parents make them sign up so they can keep them out of the house for another 2-3 hours each day, their presence is going to be unproductive. Neighbors who don’t give a damn about one another are not going to suddenly come together for some project. People generally who don’t have good values aren’t going to get them overnight, or even in a few weeks. All that work needs to happen before, not after, the police have to intervene. No one said raising good people or a good neighborhood was easy.

      • Someone has to take a leadership role, and this is often the police, because they are closer to the problems that other “helping agencies.” Early in my career, I was told, “We are the only social service agency that makes house calls after 5 PM.” This remains true today. Whether police can “fix things” is secondary to the fact that they are called on to deal with the issues “in-progress,” and it isn’t enough to say, “Hey, sorry, but this isn’t “police work,” you guys need to just wait until a social worker / counselor / community organizer / whoever is available to fix this. Police KNOW they can’t “fix things” alone, but they have a role to play, and often do. We didn’t stop “taking care of the bad guys” or “getting them off the street” while practicing community policing. Indeed, the improved communication between police and citizens often leads to more information from witnesses and others that results in more arrests and better cases. The fire department doesn’t just let the town burn because they didn’t prevent the fire. You do what can from where you are, with what you have.

  4. “The urge to do violence without having first gathered all relevant facts comes from fear, which comes from mistrust. In order to build trust, you first have to set mutual expectations, and then demonstrate you will fulfill them even when it’s costly.”

    This is a great way to look at it. It’s kind of unfortunate that Charles Green left the site, because as stubbornly, blindingly, partisan as he is, he is literally in the business of building trust, and I think it would have been interesting to hear his take on what the first steps towards establishing trust would look like.

    Because I don’t know what it is. This is the cynical, moderately dejected me: When you look at the rates of fatal interactions with police, when you look at the numbers of unarmed black people being shot by police… They’re miniscule. No really… Any police brutality is too much police brutality, and being brutalized by the body that’s ostensibly supposed to protect you is a horrible injustice, those situations need to be looked at and dealt with… But the raw numbers don’t represent a serious threat to black people. 25 unarmed black people were shot by police last year, and while that’s deadly serious to their family members, I can’t imagine changing the way I live my life over a statistic that is literally half that of the number of people struck and killed by lightning each year (average is 49 in America).

    And so this isn’t about the numbers. This is a perception issue. Black people perceive that they are in mortal danger from the police. I don’t even blame them, the media is complicit and explicitly driving that narrative. And so, frankly, I don’t know what the police could possibly do to earn the trust of black communities. They can wear the body cams so that situations like the Bryant case in Ohio don’t spiral out of control, but that’s just damage control. This seems like something that needs to start grassroots from black communities… Because what else is there? I’m not going to hold my breath and wait for journalism as a profession to dust off the ethics they have stashed up in the attic and start reporting a reality that doesn’t drive black voters full of fear towards the Democratic party.

    Because *they* have lost my trust, and while I can think of ways for them to regain it, we all know that they’re not interested.

    • HT wrote: “And so this isn’t about the numbers. This is a perception issue. Black people perceive that they are in mortal danger from the police.”

      I totally agree. The Grievance Industry drives incidents like St. George of the Floyd and the Blessed Jacob Blake because this isn’t about police policy or police reform, it is about power. The activists want to deprive local jurisdictions of policing and confer that on the federal government. It is a part of the Left’s plans to fortify the central government’s control over all aspects of life. They are doing it with education. They are doing it to health care. They are doing it to “infrastructure” and roads. They are doing it with housing by forcing local municipalities to tear up single-family residence ordinances in favor of Section 8 and multi-family dwellings with threats of denying/revoking FHA/FNMA/HUD investments. If the big cities can’t be fixed, than move the problem to the suburbs.


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