The Tamir Rice Fiasco And “Ethics Zugzwang”

Gun comparison

There are circumstances in which all ethical options have been eliminated by poor choices and bad luck. Henceforth Ethics Alarms will refer to this dilemma as ethics zugzwang, zugzwang being a chess term for the situation where a player must make a move, and any move will worsen his position.

By the time the killing of Tamir Rice got to the grand jury, it was ethics zugzwang. The grand jury’s decision not to charge the two officers involved is troubling, and a decision to charge would have also been troubling. To get anything out of this utter and fatal fiasco, a lot has to change, and we have to recognize what in order to make those changes occur. It won’t be easy. I think it may be impossible.

There is no way that the justice system can do its job objectively and well when every police shooting involving a black victim is instantly labelled racist and murder by vocal activists, pundits and and social media, with the implied threat of civil unrest. If an indictment is handed down as in theFreddie Gray matter in Baltimore, it appears as if mob passions are manipulating the system, and, in the Gray case, it was. Such a result, in turn, makes it more difficult for the next accused cop to get justice. It estranges the police force from the government entity it serves, and makes police wary and less likely to assume the risks associated with their vital and inherently dangerous  job.

These considerations create their own impetus making a failure to indict more likely. A city cannot afford to be seen as not supporting the police, even when they make a deadly mistake in judgment. District attorneys are on the same team as police, and automatically share their perspective; it is important that the police recognize that. The police receive the benefit of every doubt, and the deserve that. Yet a failure to indict, especially now that police shootings have become high profile matters that every blogger and pundit prejudges according to their own biases and agendas, will inevitably be used to indict the system instead. Continue reading

“Albuquerque Fire Chief Evaluating Training After Dispatcher Hung Up on Caller”? Why Yes, I Think That Would Be Prudent!

"No...now, see, Mr, Sanchez, this is NOT how we would like you to react with a 911 caller. Let's try it again..."

“No…now, see, Mr, Sanchez, this is NOT how we would like you to react with a 911 caller. Let’s try it again…”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: watch out for touchy 911 dispatchers.

Seventeen-year-old Esperanza Quintero called 911 after her friend Jaydon Chavez-Silver was shot last month. She tried to stop Chavez-Silver’s bleeding and gave him CPR.

“I am keeping him alive!” Quintero is heard saying on the 911 call, which was answered by dispatcher Matthew Sanchez, a ten-year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department.

Sanchez asked, “Is he not breathing?”

The teen responded, “Barely!”

On the recording, she can be heard frantically encouraging Chavez-Silver to keep breathing.

“One more breath! One more breath!” Quintero told here wounded friend. “There you go Jaydon. One more breath! There you go Jaydon. Good job! Just stay with me, OK? OK?”

Sanchez then asked again, “Is he breathing?”

Quintero responded, “He is barely breathing, how many times do I have to fucking tell you?”

Apparently this outburst deeply, deeply offended Sanchez, who felt that the use of the vulgarity justified him leaving the panicked teen to deal with her dying friend by herself. “OK, you know what ma’am? You can deal with it yourself. I am not going to deal with this, OK?” the dispatcher said, and he disconnected Quintero as she pleaded for help.

So there.

As you know, I’m a big fan of civility, and we really should discipline ourselves and our children to avoid profanity and  vulgarity in dealings with others, in the workplace or anywhere else. Mutual respect is a cornerstone of ethical conduct generally, and civility is how we recognize the inherent respect we owe every fellow citizen. Having one’s friend dying in front of you is a stressful situation, however, and I think the collective effects for fear, panic, desperation and stress creates sufficient adverse influences on a teen that a lapse of decorum should be excused or at least tolerated, don’t you? Particularly when the listener  is allegedly an adult and trained rescue personnel?

Jaydon died. A rescue squad was dispatched before the hang-up, which only means that what Sanchez did could have been worse.

Albuquerque Fire Chief David Downey  called the actions of dispatcher Matthew Sanchez on June 26 “unforgivable” and said Sanchez, who had the sense to resign, at least, should not have hung up on the caller. Downey  says he is examining the training procedures.

Good analysis. We can all stop worrying now, at least those of us in Albuquerque.

And we should be grateful, should we not, for Mr. Sanchez providing a superb lesson to all of our young people about the important of avoiding potty mouth?

 

Four Ethics Dunces And An Unethical Quote Of The Week Double Feature: The Wallingford, Connecticut Mayor And The Anti-Defamation League

Beware of Nazi fleas!

Beware of Nazi fleas!

“I had to check with the chief over what is actionable and what isn’t,” according to the mayor. “Unless something violates state or federal law, there’s no jurisdiction for government to do anything. We had to ask, is it something controlled by law?”

—-Wallingford, Connecticut Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr, explaining why his ignorance of Constitutional rights compelled him to check with the police after a hysteric freaked out over a flea market that was selling Confederate and Nazi themed items, and called 911 and the mayor’s office in a panic.

“It’s unfortunate that under the law people have the right to sell these things; but it doesn’t mean they should sell these things.” 

—-Joshua Sayles, assistant regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Connecticut, expressing his regret that the Constitution includes the First Amendment and a right to Free Speech.

The Wallingford resident who called 911 said he “was shaking and almost vomiting. I had to run.” He told 911 there were helmets with swastikas, images of Hitler and other historical Nazi items.  He complained that the Confederate items were “not authentic” and were replicas of flags and weapons.

The appropriate response to this individual is: grow up. People do things, like things, say things, believe things, sell things, buy things and think things you may not like, and your proper response if you are offended is to leave the scene,  put it out of your mind, make a personal complaint to the individual or individuals in question to express your disagreement if you feel you have to, and then go away.  You have no right to sic the law on them. You have no right to stop them. Calling 911 is an abuse of the service. Ethics Dunce #1. Continue reading

The Tamir Rice Fiasco: A Step Toward Embracing Mob Justice In Police Shootings

Oh, yeah, THIS is going to work...

Oh, yeah, THIS is going to work…

Because they believe that law enforcement officials did not move fast enough to indict (or not) the officers involved in the tragic, mistaken shooting of Tamir Rice, community activists are going  to seek the indictment and arrest of the Cleveland police officers involved by using a little-known and eccentric Ohio law that permits citizens to go directly to a judge with affidavits to seek murder charges. We can only hope that the judge chosen for this end-around has the courage and integrity to reject the petition as the attack on due process that it is.  I would not want to bet the farm on that happening.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice’s death is one of the most horrible among the spate of police shootings that have caused local and national outrage in the past year. On November 22, 2014 two police officers, 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann and 46-year-old Frank Garmback, responded to a city park after receiving a police dispatch call about “a male sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people.” A 911 caller had reported that an African American male was pointing “a pistol” at random people in the Cudell Recreation Center and that “he is probably” a juvenile .The caller also said the gun was “probably fake,” but was unable to tell whether the weapon was real or not because the orange barrel markings used to identify toy weapons had been removed. This information was never relayed to the officers. Continue reading

Ebola Ethics Train Wreck Update

train wreck - b

Wow! THAT train wreck picked up passengers fast!

  • News Media Car: “Good Morning America” co-anchors Paula Faris and Dan Harris, who  told their audience members, thereby lowering their IQ’s, that a flight ban makes no sense since Ebola can only be passed via contact with bodily fluids. Well, let’s just let the infected fly, then! How much imagination does it take to think of ways passengers can get another passenger’s bodily fluids on themselves?  (HINT: bathrooms).  Faris and Harris also know that infected people can move around the country quickly using planes—hell, do they watch their own medium, television? Movies? Thomas Eric Duncan had no  symptoms when he boarded a plane to the US, where he infected at least two people before dying.  In a situation such as this, effective pubic education is one of the most critical functions of the news media. Choosing to blurt out spontaneous misinformation instead is incompetent and irresponsible.
  • Desperate Obama Defense Derangement Car: American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, who in an Ebola-like outbreak of the DODD that he has been suffering from for years, issued a truly despicable post including vile statements like these:
Put a scary disease together with a new terrorist organization and the ever-present threat of undocumented immigrants sneaking over the border, and you’ve got yourself a putrid stew of fear-mongering, irrationality, conspiracy theories, and good old-fashioned Obama-hatred that they’re luxuriating in like it was a warm bath on a cold night…When people are afraid, they’re more likely to vote Republican, so it’s in Republicans’ interest to make them afraid. And you couldn’t come up with a better vehicle for creating that fear than a deadly disease coming from countries full of dark-skinned foreigners. So what if only two Americans, both health care workers caring for a dying man, have actually caught it? You don’t need facts to feed the fear. And they only need two and a half more weeks. 
Yes, when all else in your party’s government fails and is failing, blame it on racism. After all, nobody would be worried about a highly infectious, horrible, organ liquifying disease with no vaccine and a 70% fatality rate if it came from Asia or Europe. This is all because Republicans hate the black President. By all means, keep pushing that slander: maybe a real Rodney King-style riot can be launched in St. Louis! That should turn out the base! The fact that the Center For Disease Control that said trust us, we’ll stop this disease “in its tracks” was revealed to be a clown act has nothing to do with the criticism.

Continue reading

Now THAT’s Unprofessional!

"911...what is your emergency?"

“911…what is your emergency?”

There are many professions where a whimsical, even a black sense of humor is useful, perhaps essential. If M*A*S*H taught us anything, it taught us that. 911 operator, however, is not one of them.

I say this knowing that I would be dreadful at the job, as I find it hard not to see humor in disasters that befall others, or even myself—-too many Warner Brothers cartoons, perhaps. 911 operators must maintain a cool, calming, respectful demeanor, even when they are being told by a panicked mom that her kid super-glued a rat to his sister, that her home has been invaded by thugs dressed as Muppets, or the house has been engulfed by a flood of molasses. I couldn’t do it.

But then, it’s not my job.

It was the job of the operator on this call, though: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: George Clooney

“I think it’s a stupid thing. I think it’s stupid for anyone, whether they’re celebrated or not, I don’t believe their 911 calls should be broadcast around the world.” 

"Poor Demi! The public has a right to hear us humiliate her."

—-Actor George Clooney, speaking during Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards.  He was referring to the release and subsequent airing of a 911 call from a woman summoning rescue workers for actress Demi Moore, who, the caller said, was convulsing and had lapsed into semi-conscious.

Good call, George.

911 calls are considered public, but that doesn’t mean that the public needs or has to hear them, or that sleaze-factories like TMZ should put them online when their only purpose is titillation and to embarrass celebrities. There may be special circumstances that justify making a recording of a 911 call, rather than a  transcript, available to the public, but those should be exceptions. In cases like Moore’s, playing them is unfair and unkind, a clear Golden Rule violation, not that TMZ, or most journalists for that matter, would know about that.

If the media can’t control itself when it comes into possession of a 911 call that will embarrass someone who already has enough problems to deal with, then we need laws to keep 911 calls out of irresponsible hands…in other words, the news media’s hands.
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