Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/20/2019: Fake History, Fake Photo, Fake Assassination, Fake Native American

A dramatic good morning to all.

1. Let’s see which news media outlets report this. Because, you know, the President is the one encouraging violence…State senator Martin Sandoval, who represents Illinois’ 11th District, had a  fundraising event last week that included a mock assassination of  President Trump for the enjoyment and edification of Sandoval’s supporters. Photos posted by a woman at the event show someone pointing a fake machine gun at a man wearing a Trump mask. “Trump” is acting as if he has been shot, grabbing his chest and leaning back. In another photo, Sandoval can be seen standing next to the person holding the gun.

Thus busted, and under fire from officials of his own party, Sandoval released a statement over the weekend apologizing for the incident, which he called “unacceptable.” “I don’t condone violence toward the President or anyone else,” Sandoval said. “I apologize that something like this happened at my event.”

Oddly, he didn’t take any action indicating those sentiments at the event.

2. Now THIS is police misconduct! Wow. Portland police suspected Tyrone Lamont Allen of robbing four banks and credit unions. Yet none of the tellers noticed Allen’s  facial tattoos, and he was not wearing a mask. To address that problem, the police photoshopped out the tattoos on Allen’s face before including his picture in a photo line up.

Then the witnesses identified Allen. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Firing Of Officer Daniel Pantaleo

The New York Police Department has finally fired Daniel Pantaleo, the officer shown on video with his arm bent around the neck of 43-year-old Eric Garner just before Garner died  after being tackled by five officers.  A departmental disciplinary judge recommended the action, and Pantaleo was suspended from duty pending further review.

“In this case the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,” said O’Neill. “It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.” He also added, “If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me.”

The Commissioner kept digging. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association,  or it is not.

With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.

In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American  Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it.  Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.

Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans.  Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”

The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”

“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”

 Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.

Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,

“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading

Policing Ethics, Part Two: When Those Expected To Stand Up For The Law Can’t Stand Up For Themselves

Cellphone videos of New York City police officers being doused with water while trying to do their jobs became an internet sensation this week, and an unsettling (but inevitable) controversy for New York City.  The officers were trying to disperse rowdy groups at fire hydrants during a three-day heat wave, and allowed themselves to be assaulted and humiliated while  crowds cheered the attackers on.

The police arrested three men who were caught on video hurling water at police in two incidents. This also caused controversy. “Why is a man facing more severe punishment for dousing a police officer than Officer Daniel Pantaleo is for choking Eric Garner?” asked a Times article. That shouldn’t be a difficult question, but you know—the Times. Eric Garner was a petty criminal resisting arrest. The officers were doing their jobs, and Garner died as the result of an accident, in great part because of his own actions in defying the police. The police were also trying to do their jobs when they were doused with water, in an act that threatens the peace and order of the community.

The Police Department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, Terence Monahan, the police chief, lit the fuse on a larger controversy, saying,

“Any cop who thinks that’s all right, that they can walk away from something like that, maybe should reconsider whether or not this is the profession for them.We don’t take that.”

But they did take that, and the Mayor of New York wants them to take that, because the whole idea of law enforcement is now, and has often been, anathema to progressive ideology. Continue reading

Policing Ethics, Part One: Firing The Faint Of Heart

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department this week fired Officer Cordell Hendrex for “freezing” (it’s all on video) as a deranged sniper  fired hundreds of rounds into a crowd of county music fans below the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas in 2017. “I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor,” Hendrex said into his radio as he hid behind a wall. “I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”

As Hendrex stayed there in terror (by his own testimony), the gunman continued to fire, eventually killing 58 people and wounding more than 800 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.  His lawyers are  appealing the decision. His defense? He was scared, that’s all. It’s unreasonable for the public to expect  police officers to rise to heroic standards and place their lives in jeopardy in a public safety crisis. The Las Vegas department’s training didn’t prepare Hendrex for storming the hotel room. He’s been a terrific cop, as long as he didn’t have to put his life on the line.

Oh. Continue reading

When Unethical Conduct Is The Only Option: The Stebbins, Alaska Conundrum

Stebbins, Alaska.

Pro Publica reports that Stebbins, Alaska, a Bering Strait village of 646 people, employed Nimeron Mike as a police officer. When he applied for the job, Mike was a registered sex offender.  He had served a total of six years in various  Alaska jails and prisons, and been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault—and that’s not a complete list.

But he isn’t an exception or an anomaly in Stebbins, Pro Publica’s investigation found.  Before he was hired, the  Stebbins police chief pleaded guilty in 2017 to throwing a teenage relative to the ground and threatening to kill her after getting drunk on bootleg booze (liquor is illegal in the town.) All seven of the police officers working under him as of July 1, 2019 have pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges.  Only one has received formal law enforcement training of any kind. The seven-man police force has served a combined six years in jails, prisons and halfway houses on dozens of criminal charges, and that doesn’t include Nimeron Mike, who was fired in March.

It’s  a violation of Alaska  public safety regulations for a police force to hire a convicted felon to work as a city police officer, but those laws idealistic aspirations and dead letters in small towns and cities where the job is considered unattractive and the pay is low. At least 14 cities in Alaska have employed police officers whose criminal records should have prevented them from being hired under Department of Public Safety regulations, with  more than 34 officers currently in uniform who are supposed to be legally ineligible for these jobs. The vast majority of the  illegal police hires were never reported by municipalities  to the state regulatory board as required by law. Continue reading

Prosecutorial Ethics: Not Charging The Police In The Eric Garner Case Is The Right Ethical Decision…

…and trying any of the officers involved would be unethical.

Naturally, Eric Garner’s family immediately is attacking  the decision of the Justice Department today not to bring federal charges against  the New York police officers whose ugly and violent arrest of Eric Garner in 2014 led to his death. This incident came in the midst of several high-profile police shootings following the triggering Trayvon Martin killing, and led directly to the emergence of Black Lives Matters as well as launching one of several catch phrases connected with the movement, “I can’t breath.”

The Department of Justice took a long time reviewing the incident and the evidence, and could not determine that Officer Daniel Pantaleo willfully committed misconduct, an “essential element necessary to bring federal charges,” a senior department official told reporters at a briefing today. Considering all the elements of the  crime required to be proven under the law, the DOJ official said, the conclusion was that  the police conduct did not “fit within the statute.”

In deciding not to bring charges, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr sided with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn. The  Justice’s Civil Rights Division had favored bringing charges.

The main problem facing the Justice Department and the New York prosecutors was that a conviction would be unlikely, making a prosecution more of a show trial than a real one, much like the George Zimmerman trial for allegedly murdering Martin. That trial was brought unethically to slake activist thirst for vengeance against Martin’s shooter, despite the glaring  evidence indicating self-defense. Prosecutors may not use the process itself to punish citizens. If a trial can’t be won, or if the justification for charges are dubious, then it is professional misconduct to bring them.

Were police negligent and reckless in using such aggressive measures to bring down a suspect who was resisting arrest? Absolutely, and this was addressed, as it should have been, in a civil trial. (Garner’s family was awarded 4 million dollars from the city.) Did the cops intend to kill Garner? It takes real anti-police bias to conclude that. The video shows a huge, morbidly obese man resisting arrest by a group of much smaller officers, who pretty evidently over-reacted. Although the ME attributed Garner’s death to “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” the defense in a criminal trial will have no trouble finding persuasive expert testimony to the effect that what ultimately killed Eric Garner was his weight and poor health. Continue reading