At Last! A Persuasive Explanation For The Tyre Nichols Police Attack That Doesn’t Involve “White Supremacy”

Radley Balko, the former “Reason” investigative reporter who, as long as he isn’t discussing Donald Trump-related issues, is still a reliable, perceptive and ethical analyst, has a guest essay in the New York Times convincingly arguing that the tragedy was a predicable result of the ““elite” police team fad around the country. “Elite police teams” are, he explains, assembled for the broad purpose of fighting crime waves, and they intentionally operate with far more freedom and less oversight than police officers normally do.

The five officers who terrorized and eventually killed young Tyre Nichols were members of the 10-officer Memphis version of this phenomenon, and were collectively called “Scorpion.” Balko points out that the name is a tell: though the Memphis police force website emphasizes the importance of winning the community’s trust, the theory behind elite police teams is that they should inspire fear.

When I first learned that the Memphis police had shut down Scorpion in response to the Nichols tragedy, my initial reaction was that this was the Barn Door Fallacy, a rush to eliminate what was being blamed for a disastrous event without any evidence that doing so will have a beneficial effect, in order to be perceived as doing something. Balko makes a strong argument that these teams are ticking bombs:

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Now THIS Is Incompetent Policing! (International Division)

Police in Santa Marta, Colombia, recently published a wanted poster for 12 dangerous criminals in the town, asking the public for help in apprehending them. All are members of the “Los Pachenca” drug cartel and are suspects in a series of crimes committed in Santa Marta in recent months. The published poster (above), however, only mentioned the suspects’ nicknames without revealing their real names, and only generic silhouettes were offered rather than actual photos.

Nevertheless, the police department acted as if their procedure was serious and reasonable. “It is very important that citizens help us identify the people who are affecting life throughout the city,” the police high command said to supplement the poster. “We are going to provide payments for data that allow us to identify them.”

The mockery of the absurdly inept dragnet was instant and relentless. One wag noted that it should be easy to identify cartel members since “they all look identical.”

The department quickly pulled the poster. See? It’s not completely incompetent after all!

Tardy Ethics Observations On The Netflix Series “Unbelievable” [RE-Corrected]

I have at least four posts written already in my head this New Year’s Day morning, but I wanted to begin 2023 with a discussion that is at least a little bit positive, hence this. In truth, the 2019 series “Unbelievable” is the reason the first post of the year is going up so late: disgusted with the vulgar and idiotic New Year’s Eve coverage on the networks (“Do you two have children, are will you be making one tonight?” one of ABC’s celebrity hosts asked a kissing couple.) Grace and I started watching “Unbelievable” on Netflix for the third time. I thought it was better this time than before, and on the earlier viewings I thought it was great. Thoroughly engrossed we couldn’t stop midway, so as a result, the Marshall got to bed after 3 am last night. (And I woke up with a cold.)

Over at “Simple Justice,” lawyer/blogger Scott Greenfield wrote about his regret that so many examples of flaws within the justice system escaped his metaphorical acid pen in 2022. Yeah, welcome to my world, Scott. I write three or hour posts a day to his one, and I still miss more ethics issues, often major ones, than I cover. I do not understand why I didn’t write about “Unbelievable” in 2019, or in 2021, when I watched it again. In such situations, I’m just letting readers down. “Unbelievable” is not only an ethics story, but an important one; it also happens to be true. (It was also partially created by the Marshall Project. I am awash in shame.)

I usually don’t worry much about spoilers, but in this case, I don’t want anyone to enjoy the series less because I’ve given away the plot completely, although, as I said, I enjoyed “Unbelievable” more the third time around, but perhaps for different reasons than I did on first viewing. If you want to experience the story, the performances (which are all excellent), the incrustation and emotional finale cold, then maybe you should stop reading here. But I’m going to try to make some ethics points here without giving too much away: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2: Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Breyer’s Self-Refuting Dissent”

As it did eventually in the Parkland school shooting, the consideration of the accountability for the death toll of innocents in the Uvalde shooting has turned to the conduct of those charged with protecting the victims. It is a separate issue from the culpability of the shooter, whose conduct, intentions and ethical and moral bankruptcy remain the same regardless of the actions of those who helped or hindered it. It is also a separate issue from the question of what public policies might have realistically prevented the tragedy before it took place. It is germane, however, to the matters of government trust, accountability for the loss of life, and particularly the reasonableness of constructing a free society where citizens are entirely at the mercy of the competence, wisdom and character of government agents.

Especially because of the latter, some commentators appear to be trying to rationalize and even excuse the conduct of the police in Uvalde who, by their officials’ own admission, allowed the murderer to keep shooting while they prevented others from trying to intervene, while holding back themselves because they feared being shot.

Commenter Jim Hodgson, in this Comment of the Day on the post, “Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2…“:


I was the first supervisor of my previous agency’s SRO program, and I helped teach Active Shooter Response to all our law enforcement deputies for nearly fifteen years. Continue reading

It’s Only January 11, And Yet This Might Already Be The Ethics Story Of The Year: The Nazi-Loving Police Chief

This story made my head explode, and for once, it was worth it. I LOVE this story! It touches on so much…idiocy,incompetence, dead ethics alarms, unions, a soupçon of “The Producers,” incredible excuses and more—I don’t want to give away the one detail that made me laugh out loud yet. And perhaps best of all, it comes out of Washington state, one of the epicenters of The Great Stupid.

I am going to try to relate the tale without giggling, and then I’ll have some observations at the end. Alert: my telling may contain a bit of sarcasm here and there. I’m sorry. I can’t resist.

In Kent, Washington, a King County suburb of Seattle, Mayor Dana Ralph (D) apologized profusely to her city in a 30 minute video. Why? Well, she admitted that her administration badly mis-estimated what the public’s reaction would be to the town’s decision not to fire Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell, and to instead suspend him for two weeks while allowing him to treat the time off as a vacation, meaning that he was paid. You can understand why the mayor and her staff would be blindsided by the outrage; after all, all Kammerzell did was show every sign of being a Nazi.

All right, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much. An investigation that began in September of 2020 after a complaint lodged by a member of the police force determined that Kammerzell, a 27-year Kent police veteran, Continue reading

A Court of Appeals Confirms: The First Amendment Protects Hate Speech And Expressive Acts By Irredeemable Jerks

1. Good!

2. Why don’t they train police to understand that so cases like this aren’t necessary?

Artemas Buford Johnson was arrested when he drove past a Seattle Police Department officer, shouted “Fuck the police!” and then made a shooting gesture using his fingers.  In its decision in State v. Buford-Johnson, yesterday, a unanimous ruling by the Washington Court of Appeals with Judge Lori Smith joined by Judge Bill Bowman and Acting Chief Judge Beth Andrus held that the arrest was unconstitutional.

Of course it was. The opinion stated in part, Continue reading

The Police Traffic Stop Ethics Dilemma

Coltin LeBlanc

The Kim Potter trial in Minnesota has focused special attention on the recurring incidence of police shootings of motorists after traffic stops. Potter, now an ex-cop, fatally shot Daunte Wright when he appeared to be preparing to flee the stop, because she mistakenly drew her gun and fired it instead of her taser. The news media, as usual, is pre-biased against the police, and its analyses have reflected that, despite the fact that stopping a car has frequently proven fatal for many police officers, and there is ample justification for heightened caution and suspicion when approaching a stopped vehicle. The Washington Post unhelpfully issued a fatuous editorial headlined, “Being pulled over for a broken taillight shouldn’t end in death. Too often, it does.” Yes, indeed it does, and this is virtually always because of a combination of uncooperative and alarming behavior by the motorist and a mistaken, excessive, or poor choice of a response by police in the split second the officer has to assess the situation and act.

One way to prevent what “should” never happen is for police to just allow infractions on the highway and never stop cars. That would work. It would also result in some highway deaths caused by the uninhibited law-breaker that “shouldn’t happen,” but there are prices for everything. This is where law enforcement policy will soon arrive if the anti-police lobby gets its way and police are fired and prosecuted every time a driver sets in motion a sequence that ends in his or her own death.

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


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.


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


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


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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