Tag Archives: police

No Charges In The Keith Scott Shooting, And An Ethics Test For Black Lives Matter

stephanie-clemons-thompson-fb-post

Yesterday,  Mecklenburg, North Carolina District Attorney Andrew Murray announced that the investigation into September’s fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott had found no legal wrongdoing. This meant, in addition to the fact that officer Brently Jackson, who is black, would not face trial, that the two-days of riots inflicted on Charlotte after the Scott’s death were even more inexcusable than riots generally are. People who claimed on social media that they had seen the shooting and that Scott was unarmed admitted to investigators that they hadn’t seen what they said they saw. Evidence in the case showed that Scott stepped out of his SUV  holding a gun—his DNA was retrieved from the weapon found at the scene—and ignored at least ten commands from the five officers on the scene to drop it. Individuals who behave like that are likely to get shot, and deserve to be. No case, no outrage, no systemic racism.

Following the shooting, however, this was a Mike Brown encore, complete with angry, loud, false accounts and social media rumors focused on making Scott’s death another rallying point for race-hucksters, politicians who felt they could benefit from dividing the country by color, and irresponsible pundits.

From the Ethics Alarms post on September 21: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

The Michael Slager Trial: When The Ethical Course Is To Not Exercise a Right

shooting_of_walter_scott

Michael Slager is the white North Charleston police officer who stopped African American Walter Scott for a taillight violation on April 4, 2015, and in the ensuing events, ended up fatally shooting Scott as he fled the scene, in the back, as recorded on a cell phone video. Of all the many police-involved shootings, this is the least equivocal. Slager is guilty of murder of one kind or another: in South Carolina, there is only one kind, and  mitigating circumstances are reflected in the sentence. He could receive life in prison, or much less time.

But every criminal defendant has the right to be tried by a jury of his peers before the law finds him guilty, and Slager is taking full advantage of the right. In doing so, he is forgoing his last clear chance at redemption. The former officer—he has already been fired for the episode and not just put on paid leave, as is usually the case—is understandably trying to avoid a conviction and jail time, even though, should he be acquitted by some miracle or act of mass hypnosis, it would be certain to provoke even more anger and distrust in the black community, and, I would hope, among non-African Americans as well. A justice system that finds, no matter how it reaches such a conclusion, that an officer who shoots a fleeing man dead like Slager did is not guilty needs to be blown up and seeded with salt. When Slager’s first lawyer saw the video, he quit.

Do you think an acquittal is impossible? Don’t. All that is needed is a jury full of people who “think,” and I use the word generously, like the signers of this petition. I’m pretty sure that there are more than twelve of them available. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights

Thanksgiving Ethics From The “Fear Of Being Shot Causes Broken Ethics Alarms” Files

Bridgeport, Connecticut police stopped cars on the day before Thanksgiving, and surprised the motorists by handing them turkeys rather than tickets.

Awww!

Too bad it’s per se unethical conduct, an abuse of power and position, and a dangerous precedent. This is unpleasant déjà vu, for I’ve written this post before, more than once, and as many times in this year than the previous seven years combined. It’s pretty obvious why. Police, who were being shot and ambushed all over the country last week, are desperate to endear themselves to citizens and validate their role as a beneficent force in the community, which needs no validation.

“It’s a way of giving back, reaching out to the community and making sure everyone has a meal for thanksgiving,” says Bridgeport Police Capt. Roderick Porter, not getting it at all. I wonder what would have happened if one of those turkey stops was a fleeing felon. Would objections have been raised if the white cops only stopped black motorists, to say “We like you! We really like you! Here’s a turkey!”

Here comes the déjà vu again: As I wrote about the ice cream caper, which was pretty much the same thing: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

The Charlotte Riots: Good Work, Everybody! It Is Now Officially Impossible For Police Officers To Do Their Jobs…Now What?

Thank you,  George Zimmerman. Thank you, Mike Brown, and Freddie Gray. Thank you, Marilyn Mosby, Barack Obama, Ta Nihisi Coates. Thanks, Charles Blow, and Al Sharpton, MSNBC, Sabrina Fulton,  Lezlie McSpadden, and the Democratic National Committee. Thanks, Baltimore Police, Ferguson Police, and Bill DeBlasio.  Thanks, Eric Holder. Thanks, Black Lives Matter. And thanks to you too, Michael Slager, Timothy Loehmann, and the other trigger-happy cops who made their fellow officers around the country vulnerable to accusations of racism and murder by your incompetence. Thanks to all of you and others, it is now impossible for police to do their jobs without fear of being demonized and destroyed if they are wrong, or sparking riots and violence if they are right.

Now what are we supposed to do?

 A Charlotte, North Carolina police officer named Brentley Vinson, an African American, shot and killed Keith L. Scott, 43, after he posed an “imminent deadly threat” to police officers by refusing to drop the weapon he was carrying when ordered to do so.  The shooting sparked night of rioting and violent confrontations between police and “protesters.”

According to police, officers were searching for a suspect with an outstanding warrant. Around 4:00 pm yesterday, police observed Keith Lamont Scott inside his car. (Scott was not the person being sought.) Scott exited the vehicle carrying a firearm, got back into his vehicle, and when officers began to approach his car, got back out of it, again carrying his handgun. Officers ordered him to drop it, and he did not.  The officers fired their weapons at Scott, who was hit and fell. They immediately requested medial assistance and began performing CPR.

Following the pattern of the Ferguson and Freddie Gray incidents, unverified reports spread through social and broadcast media that the victim was a disabled man, holding only a book and no weapon. A woman claiming to be the victim’s daughter used Facebook Live to give her angry, emotional and quite possibly fanciful account of what was transpiring. About a hundred protesters arrived at the site of the shooting. #KeithLamontScott began to trend on Twitter.

Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

Observations On A Bad Police Stop

 

The ACLU of Colorado last week posted the above  video of an Aurora, Colorado police encounter with two black citizens last February.

The sequence, drawn from one of the officers’ body camera, shows Darsean Kelley and another man being stopped by police after they had received a call about a man allegedly pointing a gun on a child, but with no description of the man. Kelley and his companion were standing on the sidewalk in the vicinity of the alleged incident. Police asked the men  to sit down, which Kelley said was impossible to do because he had a groin injury. Officers then told both men to put their hands behind their heads and turn around. As his friend remained silent and apparently compliant, Kelley kept his hands raised and asked why he was being detained. Immediately after he said, “I know my rights!” one of the officers shot him in the back with a stun gun. He fell backwards into the street.

The police then arrested Kelley on a charge of disorderly conduct for failing to obey a lawful order. In his report, the officer wrote that he thought he might be reaching for a weapon. The ACLU of Colorado then filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that Kelley was unlawfully detained and arrested without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Observations:

1. Kelley and the other man were unlawfully detained and arrested. Were they unlawfully stopped? No. The police could stop men in the vicinity of a complaint like the one they had received in order to investigate it. When people become belligerent or uncooperative during such legal stops, cops sometimes become suspicious, or decide to use their power to stick it to an individual who shows hostility when the officers feel they are just doing their jobs, or trying to. This is when such situations escalate.

I’m sure the officers regarded the “I can’t sit down” claim as suspicious and provocative. I would. Note that no harm befell the other man, who remained quiet and followed the officers’ instructions. This is the correct way to respond.

2. I’m sure Kelley felt that he was being “stopped for being black.” I would if I were him. How are police officers today supposed to allay this suspicion at the outset of a legitimate stop? (Or maybe they WERE stopped for being black…)

3. What is the policy for tasing? The typical hierarchy for the use of force in police departments used to be this:

Table 1: Use-of-Force Continuum
Suspect resistance Officer use of force
1. No resistance 1. Officer presence
2. Verbal noncompliance 2. Verbal commands
3. Passive resistance 3. Hands-on tactics, chemical spray
4. Active resistance 4. Intermediate weapons: baton, Taser, strikes, nondeadly force
5. Aggressive resistance 5. Intermediate weapons, intensified techniques, nondeadly force
6. Deadly-force resistance 6. Deadly force
(Adapted from the Orlando, Florida Police Department’s Resistance and Response Continuum)

 

 

 

 

 

After the introduction of more powerful electronic control devices, many departments changed  their use-of-force directives  for handling suspects who were only passively resisting the lawful orders of the officer, and increased the required level of resistance by suspects to warrant use of stun guns or tasers from passive resistance to active, physical resistance.

Table 2: Levels of Resistance Defined

Passive Resistance The subject fails to obey verbal direction, preventing the officer from taking lawful action.
Active Resistance The subject’s actions are intended to facilitate an escape or prevent an arrest. The action is not likely to cause injury.
Aggressive Resistance The subject has battered or is about to batter an officer, and the subject’s action is likely to cause injury.
Deadly-Force Resistance The subject’s actions are likely to cause death or significant bodily harm to the officer or another person.
Adapted from the Orlando, Florida, Police Department’s Resistance and Response Continuum

I don’t know what the Aurora police policy is, but certainly under the kinder, gentler, saner revised standards above, stunning Kelley was excessive. Police brutality is not an unfair description of what he experienced. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Stupid Cops Matter

Perfect match.

Perfect match.

In a case where Hanlon’s Razor (“Never assume malice is the explanation if stupidity will suffice”) applies but one can’t really blame a mother for thinking otherwise, police in Newark  inexplicably mistook an innocent pre-teen black boy for an adult robbery suspect and chased him through a Newark neighborhood with guns drawn. This is stupidity, not racism. Well, who knows: there could be racism mixed in there too, but what jumps out is the jaw-dropping incompetence.

Legend Preston, just ten years old, was fetching a basketball that had rolled into the street when he looked up and saw armed cops running towards him as if they meant business. So he ran.

“I was scared for my life,” Legend told reporters. “I was thinking that they were going to shoot me.” Good thinking, kid. If these cope were inept enough to get a ten-year-old  confused with Casey Joseph Robinson, a 20-year-old, dreadlocks-sporting perp with facial hair (he was arrested in the next block), who knows what they might do?

Legend was quickly surrounded by neighbors  who emphatically pointed out to the police that they were chasing a child, as the officers stammered that he “fit the description” of the criminal. Well, sort of. Okay, okay, now that we’re up close, we see that he’s under five feet tall, dressed like a kid, doesn’t have dreadlocks or facial hair, and looks nothing like the guy, except that he’s black, which means we also could also mistake him for Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, Morgan Freeman, or LeBron James. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Sarcasm-Tainted Observations On The Milwaukee Riots”

Milwaukee rioting

Chris Marschner, a grandmaster of the Ethics Alarms Comment of the Day feature, issued another deserving one with his thoughts on the Milwaukee riots. It is a highlight of the threads generated by this topic, but there are many other highlights amid the 90+ comments, including an Alamo-like stand against overwhelming odds (and logic) by that prolific, embattled, and adamant EA progressive, deery. The whole discussion is well worth reading. Deery also authored the comment that inspired Chris’s response below.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Sarcasm-Tainted Observations On The Milwaukee Riots”:

For the life of me I cannot see how any rational human being can justify rioting and the looting businesses because they feel they are owed something for being “oppressed”. What the hell did the gas station or auto parts store do to them? Does that case of Cheezits being carried out of the store address all of your complaints, or is it just a partial down payment on a never ending invoice for the injustice you perceive? Sorry I have no sympathy for anyone who had myriad opportunities to become educated in a manner that would permit them to read, write, perform arithmetic calculations, and just plain think.

No amount of funding can overcome community apathy. Especially, when apathy is the root cause of the need for funding in the first place. The community needs to recognize that if it wants things to be different then it needs to come to grips with the idea that they must take on the lion’s share of the work to enjoy a better life; it cannot be bestowed upon them. It must pool its own resources first before it requests resources from others. It must demonstrate that it is committed to being responsible for the work of changing the situation. Any one who thinks jobs and opportunities will simply emerge with more government spending in areas that suggest crime is rampant needs his/her head examined. No amount of tax abatement will overcome the cost of rebuilding a business that has been burned to the ground. It should be noted that the police did not spray paint tags all over other people’s buildings. It’s not urban art, it’s vandalism. The police did not create the need for security grates over the glass windows of shops. The police did not throw litter all over the street and dump furniture and tires wherever they pleased. More importantly, within the BCPD, the officers charged with various felonies while on the force were predominantly non-white so it not always a racial issue.

I grew up in Baltimore City. I lived there from 1956-1989. I went to Balto. City public schools (BCPS). I went to Woodbourne Jr. High and graduated from Northern High in 1974. Both schools were integrated and each had its share of bad actors be they white or black. In those days black parents wanted to keep their kids away from the “element”. I don’t think that is the case today. Today we celebrate the gangsta persona.

I was neither a star pupil nor a bad student. What I did learn from my father was that college was not something I could ask for help with and no school counselor ever suggested that I consider college. I saw the battles my older brother went through to get him to fill out the financial information on the financial aid applications. My father hated to disclose his income. Perhaps it was because he felt inferior to what others made or maybe he just did not like the idea of getting government assistance. I don’t know. I just learned not to ask about college. To this day I don’t remember either parent talking to me about college except for when I was in 8th grade and I could not pass the foreign language class which was required for college prep.

I did not go to college immediately after high school. Ironically, both my parents were Baltimore City Public School teachers for much of their lives. My mother who taught English was known as that white honky bitch at Northern Parkway Junior High. That’s what the parents called her when she called them to discuss a student’s lack of progress. She got called that a lot. I saw the tears of frustration.

Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Finance, Government & Politics, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society