In Florida, “I Eat Ass” And A Qualified Immunity Ethics Conundrum

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A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, and qualified immunity, the doctrine that exists to shield officers and other state officials from liability when they commit torts in the course of their duties, is under fire because of its role in blocking accountability for cops who engage in police brutality. But without qualified immunity, policing would become even more perilous than it already is.

Take the “I Eat Ass” controversy.

Please.

In Florida, jerk Dillon Shane Webb had a sticker on his vehicle that boasted “I Eat Ass.” (Some may disagree, but Ethics Alarms regards public display of that legend signature significance, as a non-jerk would never do it. Not even once). Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis English pulled Webb over in May of 2019 and demanded that he cover up the message. Webb refused, and he was subsequently arrested and jailed for “obscene writing on vehicles” and “resisting an officer without violence,” because he had refused to obscure the sticker. Reason, the libertarian cite that is usually more reasonable, wrote that Officer English “took exception” to “I Eat Ass.” No, the officer was under the impression that the display violated Fla. Stat. § 847.011(2), which prohibits “any sticker, decal, emblem or other device attached to a motor vehicle containing obscene descriptions, photographs, or depictions.”

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Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 9/26/2021: Down The Hole As We Vilify The Good Guys To Advance An Agenda

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Well, it worked with the false Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown narratives, so why not try it again? I was about to devote a segment here to the hysterical “Border Patrol whipping poor migrants” tale neing manufactured by the administration and the media, but it warrants a full post. I’ll just note the smoking gun huminahumina response from DHS Secretary Mayorkas last week when Peter Doocy of Fox News—gee, why don’t the reporters from other outlets ask administration officials tough questions?—asked him why President Joe Biden accused Border Patrol agents of “strapping migrants.” Doocy asked, “You said on Saturday — or rather, on the 20th, ‘To ensure control of the horse, long reins are used.’ The person who took these photos of the Border Patrol agents says, ‘I’ve never seen them whip anyone.’ So, why is the President out there today talking about people being ‘strapped?'” Hmmm. Because Biden has always been a shameless hack? Because nobody tells him what’s going on? Because creating sympathy for illegals while villifying law enforcement officials for doing their jobs is central to the Left’s open borders agenda? Mayorkas babbled,”So let me, um, uh, let me correct, um, uh, the statements in your question, if I may…” When Doocy (you know, for someone who only has his job because of outrageous nepotism, he has been performing admirably) countered, “They’re direct quotes,” the Secretary of Homeland Security said, “It was on Friday when I was, uh — actually, it was on Monday, I believe, uh, when I was in Del Rio, uh, on the ground, uh, and I made the statements without having seen the images. I saw the images on the flight back, and I made the statement that I did with respect to what those images suggested.The horses have long reins, and, uh, the image in the photograph that we all saw that horrified the nation, raised serious questions about what it— about what occurred and of — as I stated quite clearly — it conjured up images of what has occurred in the past.”

That’s as close to an admission of deliberate obfuscation for political ends as you’re likely to see. What should matter is what was really happening, not what images were conjured up by confirmation bias and or what photos “suggested.”

1. The Great Stupid comes for “Lonesome Dove.” As a lifetime Western movies aficionado, I have concluded that the TV mini-series of Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” is the greatest Western ever made. Watching it again yesterday to cheer me up after I woke up with Churchill’s “Black Dog” on my head, I was nauseated to find that the streaming version now carries a warning about “Culturally insensitive portrayals.” After all, the story about cowboys moving a herd to Montana told from their perspective included some dangerous and violent Indians. Of course, for every mean Native American there were about ten cruel and ruthless whites, but somehow I don’t think the trigger warning was referring to them.

2. Speaking of the “Zimmerman murdered innocent teen Trayvon Martin” lie…New York Times drama critic Salamishah Margaret Tillet , the Henry Rutgers Professor of African American Studies and Creative Writing who is essentially an activist uninterested in fair or objective analysis, meaning that her reviews are propaganda, wrote about the re-opened Broadway play “Pass Over” by writing of the playwright,

“Nwandu originally wrote “Pass Over” in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin, seeking to channel the grief and rage that so many African Americans were grappling with. Its latest iteration, she has said, is speaking to the widespread racial justice protests of the summer of 2020. As a result, “Pass Over” is one of the few works of art that really charts Black Lives Matter as a movement responding to the racial justice needs of its day.”

But if the play, which involves a white cop called “master” threatening and menacing them was a response to Martin’s death, it was a response based on media lies and deliberately divisive warping of facts to vilify whites and police. That rage and grief was manufactured for political ends, and the investigation and the trial exploring Martin’s death had to be deliberately ignored for Tillet to write such a paragraph and for the Times to publish it.

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Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Photo

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Officer Craig Eichhammer, a 31-year veteran of the Williamstown, Massachusetts police department, kept a photo of Adolf Hitler in his locker for two decades without incident. Two years ago, the photo was removed and thrown out when when the department staff moved into the new police station. The presence of the photo was raised as part of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in August 2020 by Sgt. Scott McGowan, who claims that he was retaliated against for decrying racial and sexual harassment by the Williamstown police chief.

In his statement to the town manager last year explaining the presence of a photo of Der Fuhrer, Eichhammer wrote that his former partner on the night shift in 1999 was kidded in the station for his supposed resemblance to Adolf. “I stuck the photograph on the locker wall just as one would of possibly hanging a comic strip or picture they thought was funny,” he wrote.

“The photo was out of view and could not be seen even with the locker door open. The photograph was put up for no other reason than a laugh factor poking fun at [his former partner]. The photo was left there and basically forgotten about. It stayed in the same spot for 20 years and no one knew it was there….At no time was it my belief that the picture was nothing more than a figure from a history book,” he added. “I had no ideologies of Nazi Germany, swastikas or anything terrible that happened during WW2. Again, the photo was simply just to get a laugh of the likeness of [his former partner].”

Okaaaay. But predictably, many are not satisfied with the officer’s explanation. A letter demanding his dismissal from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated,

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Comment Of The Day: “The Ethics Dilemma That Has No Solution: We Can’t Trust Police, But We Have To”

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Well, I expected this one: Jim Hodgson, a frequent commenter, has an extensive background in law enforcement. Ethics Alarms is fortunate to have the benefit of his perspective, and I am grateful for it.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Ethics Dilemma That Has No Solution: We Can’t Trust Police, But We Have To”:

***

The scope of thought provoked by this post could fill volumes. I will try to be brief.

Some corrupt organizational cultures are so big and so corrupt that they seem to defy correction. This seems to be the case with big agencies like NYPD, Chicago PD, and perhaps Boston PD as well as others. Some of these agencies seem to have major corruption scandals every ten or fifteen years, which likely means there is some omnipresent level of corruption just below the surface. It boggles the mind (mine, anyway) to contemplate what would have to be done to set a large erring agency on the right path.

In the agencies I worked for, (200 – 250 employees max) just one incident involving one officer was a scandal. Yet, I can only comment accurately from my own experience. I entered law enforcement in 1974, at what I call “the end of the knuckle-dragging era,” when the first steps to upgrade police selection, training and supervision were just taking hold. My first agency required two years of college as a prerequisite to employment, and required us to remain enrolled in college until the completion of a baccalaureate or higher degree, pursuing the goal that the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice established in 1967, “that all police personnel with general enforcement powers have baccalaureate degrees.” This was, of course, presented by the Commission as “an ultimate” goal, but it was being actively pursued by some agencies.

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The Rest Of The Story: The Cop Who Shot Rayshard Brooks Is Reinstated, But Atlanta’s Disgrace And The Stench Of Presumed Racism Lingers On

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Way back in June of 2020, I watched this fiasco develop. Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was arrested by police for being drunk (35% over the legal limit) and passed out in his car, blocking a Wendy’s drive-up lane, was shot and killed in a subsequent confrontation with police in Atlanta. A mostly peaceful protest of BLM types ensued, with the Wendy’s being set on fire, since it was all Wendy’s fault. The Atlanta Chief of Police quickly resigned, the coward. Atlanta’s race-baiting mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms then pronounced the police officer who fired the fatal shots, Garrett Rolfe, guilty before knowing what happened—of course she did— and demanded that he be terminated with no investigation and no due process.

I wrote at the time,

“Last night’s incident began about 10:30 p.m. outside a Wendy’s  on University Avenue. Wendy’s employees called the police after receiving a complaint about a man asleep in his vehicle in the Drive-in line, which forced other customers to go around his car to get their food at the window. 

Responding to the call was the police’s first mistake. They should have asked if the man was black, and upon receiving an answer in the affirmative, should have told Wendy’s, “Sorry, you’re on your own.  We’d deal with it if the guy was white, but we can’t afford any situation these where a black guy might get gets hurt. Let him sleep it off. ‘Bye!” I’m completely serious. Any police department that isn’t under standing orders to let black lawbreakers at any level  just go about their anti-social, illegal business without police intervention is asking for a disaster.

The sleeping man, Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks, was roused by the police and given a field sobriety test. He was drunk. After failing the test… Brooks was told that he was being taken into custody. NOOOOO! The odds were that he would resist, and this is how so many of these encounters go out of control. Again, the police should have just let him go.

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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.

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Comment Of The Day: “Maryland Strips Police Officers Of Substantive Due Process Rights: Oh, THIS Will Work Out Well, Yessiree!”

Another Steve-O Comment of the Day is on the way, but this one is particularly relevant considering what is unfolding in Minnesota, and not just there. Here, for example, is the state of affairs in Austin, Texas:

After the Austin police budget cut on top of the repeal of the public camping ban, Austin crime and disorder has gotten measurably worse. Austin police are also leaving in droves:

After the Austin city council voted unanimously to defund its police department by about one-third of its budget, in August 2020, many predicted that once the cuts kicked in a flood of officers would leave the force as soon as they could. The new district attorney’s policy of re-investigating police officers for closed cases is also expected to cause officers to resign or retire.

The city council’s cuts officially kicked in and have been in place for a few months.

PJ Media reports exclusively that APD is now suffering a huge surge of officer departures putting it on pace to shatter 2020’s record.

In January 2021, sources tell PJ Media 20 officers retired from APD and eight resigned, for a total of 28 departures.

In February 2021, five officers resigned and six retired, according to multiple sources, for a total of 11 departures.

In March 2021, 24 more officers left APD, with 20 officers retiring. Additionally, three officers resigned and one was terminated.

To put this into perspective, 2019 was the last non-pandemic year and the year before the city council cut APD’s budget. APD averages about 50 retirements or separations in a calendar year, and replaces them with cadets who have graduated from the police academy or officers who join APD from another force.

APD saw 46 officers retire with another 22 resigning in 2019, according to local TV news station KVUE.

2020’s numbers were exacerbated by the George Floyd riots; 78 officers departed or retired from APD from the beginning of those riots to the end of 2020, for a total of 89 separations, according to KVUE.

Official 2021 numbers provided to PJ Media by the Austin Police Retirement System (APRS) break down as follows:

  • Prior to 2020, retirements averaged 50-52 per year over the last 5-6 years
  • Record number of retirements in FY 2020: 97
  • First-quarter 2021 retirements: 45

Add to those 45 retirements the 18 resignations or terminations, for a total of 63 separations in just the first quarter of 2021. If the current pace continues, APD could lose approximately 252 officers — about five times the average number of separations for a year. This will impact public safety across the board, and according to the APRS, can impact retirees’ benefits as well. APRS raised the alarm about the impact the city council’s cuts could have in September of 2020.

March 2021’s retirements hit all over the department, including tactical intelligence, gang crimes, narcotics enforcement, investigations, and the bomb squad, according to a full list provided to PJ Media. Traffic enforcement — both warnings and citations — has declined by more than 60% in the first two months of 2021, a source tells PJ Media.

At the same time, the city council’s cuts have forced the cancellation of police cadet classes. The department is losing experienced officers in droves and is unable to replace them with new officers.

Fewer officers means fewer officers to cover 911 calls, to the point that some 911 calls now result in “NUA”s: No Officer Available…

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, where it increasingly appears that the prosecution and the judge are willing to discard due process and basic fairness to make certain Derek Chauvin is convicted of murdering George Floyd, Kim Potter, the police officer who shot Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb after appearing to mistake her gun for her Taser was arrested yesterday and charged with manslaughter. The Wrights’ family lawyer, Ben Crump, coincidentally the same lawyer who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, declared,

“This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force. We will keep fighting for justice for Daunte, for his family, and for all marginalized people of color. And we will not stop until there is meaningful policing and justice reform.”

Nice! Crump is accusing Porter of racism and murder, before any investigation and without any evidence that race played any part in the shooting. The fact that the victim resisted arrest, however, was a significant part of the tragedy. The convention Crump and various elected officials and legislators are trying to create would create strict criminal liability for law enforcement officials when black suspects are involved. Why wouldn’t this eventually lead to police officers being passive when confronted with black law breakers? Why would any officer take any measures to stop a fleeing African-American suspect,or foil efforts to resist arrest?

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, Maryland Strips Police Officers Of Substantive Due Process Rights: Oh, THIS Will Work Out Well, Yessiree!

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Maryland Strips Police Officers Of Substantive Due Process Rights: Oh, THIS Will Work Out Well, Yessiree!

I know this is the second appearance today of James Donald’s anguished coda at the end of “The Bridge Over The River Kwai,” but he arrives when it is appropriate.

Maryland’s Democrat-controlled legislature moved yesterday to pass a “police reform package “that includes the repeal of the state’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto to do it.

The state’s police Bill of Rights covered due process for officers accused of misconduct. You can read it here. I have. I would call it a not especially radical or permissive document, and its provisions simple codify basic due process rights. I view this move by the legislature as primarily symbolic, a virtue-signaling gesture of support for the individuals who break laws and against those who enforce them.

Yes, this is sure to work out well.

The action of the Maryland House of Delegates is more of the George Floyd freakout, still marching to the dishonest tune of Black Lives Matter, as the news media provides ample fertilizer. Here’s Politico, for example: “The move, a win for police reform advocates, comes amid a national reckoning with policing after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last year.”

Morons. First, Floyd did not die “at the hands” of a police officer by any measure. Second, whether the police officer caused his death is a matter being determined in a court of law, a right even police officers have. Third, it is foolish, irresponsible, incompetent emotion-driven policy-making to allow any single event, especially one in a different state, to drive substantive policy changes of any kind.

In his veto statement, Governor Hogan wrote,

“These bills would undermine the goal that I believe we share of building transparent, accountable, and effective law enforcement institutions and instead further erode police morale, community relationships, and public confidence.They will result in great damage to police recruitment and retention, posing significant risks to public safety throughout our state.”

Why would anyone in his or her right mind want to serve as a police officer in Maryland? I guess the state wants police officers who are not in their right minds. Oh, yes, this is really going to work out well.

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Here’s Another Unethical Trend To Dread As Progressives Grab The Reins: “Trauma-Informed Justice”

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Trauma-informed justice, also called “victim-centered” justice, is becoming the cool new thing as woke anti-civil rights activists seek to get around due process and the presumption of innocence when it suits their agenda. The technique involves an interview methodology where the police prioritize empathy for accusers, who are automatically presumed to be victims. The methodology is especially favored for allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence, where the accusers are overwhelmingly female: this a “believe all victims as long as they are wo,men” anti-male approach that has its roots in the feminist movement. The methodology was refined by Russell Strand, U.S. Military Police School, who offered the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) as a way to question presumed victims without making them relive an assault.

The theory dictates that police conduct investigations following three principles:

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