Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Beavercreek . . . Ferguson . . . New York . . . now Cleveland?

The pattern of over-aggressive, overbearing policing revealed (not so much in the incidents themselves as in all the circumstances surrounding and following them) in the deaths of John Crawford in Beavercreek, OH, Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner and Akai Gurley in New York, look like they're about to be joined by another cause célèbre:  the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, OH in November last year.

Rice was admittedly carrying an Airsoft replica pistol, and was allegedly brandishing it at passersby;  certainly sufficient cause for police to investigate.  However, newly released surveillance camera footage shows the two police officers involved shooting the boy within seconds of arriving on the scene, then restraining his 14-year-old sister, handcuffing her and locking her in a police vehicle to prevent her going to her brother - all while ignoring the injured child and failing to provide even the most elementary medical assistance.  An FBI agent who arrived later provided the only immediate care to the boy, with EMS personnel arriving soon afterwards.

Here's the newly released footage.

To make matters worse, the performance of one of the officers involved had been very poorly rated at a previous agency where he'd worked, and a long-standing investigation by the Justice Department has alleged that the Cleveland police force as a whole exhibits a pattern of excessive use of force.  The public response by the head of the Cleveland Police Union did nothing to defuse tensions in the situation, and his assertions are not backed up by the available video evidence.

I've written before about several incidents of police overreach and the cases mentioned in the first paragraph.  This latest revelation merely underscores the extent of the problem.  Not all cops are guilty;  indeed, I have many friends whom I regard as outstanding peace officers, and to whom I'd entrust my life without a moment's hesitation.  Despite that, however, US law enforcement officers and agencies in general are deservedly coming under more intense scrutiny.  Their official motto may, in many cases, be some variation of "To Protect And Serve", but increasingly it looks in practice like "Obey Or Die!"  That's simply not acceptable in a democratic society.

In an earlier post about this problem I mentioned Sir Robert Peel's principles of policing.  More than ever, these need to be reincorporated into our police training, both initial and refresher.  The current situation is intolerable.  It must - MUST! - be changed, and that change has to start right now.



Old NFO said...

Agree 100% Peter! That 10% of over the top cops IS tainting all of them.

Mark Matis said...

If the so-called "good cops" will not touch the alleged 10%, Old NFO, it ain't just a "few bad apples." That barrel is rotten to its very core.

Just look at Serpico and realize that NOT ONE THING has changed in the Big Crapple pig sty since the late 60s.

The stench is overwhelming. And it smells like pig.

m4 said...

I don't really understand what's going on in the footage. Did the officers drive up, park right next to someone suspected of having a weapon, get out of the vehicle and immediately shot them? This just doesn't make any sense and really couldn't have gone any other way.

Why did it have to go this way? It's because the only reasonable action in this entire incident was the fact that they shot him at the moment they did. Let's say he pointed the gun at them, intentionally or not. A police car can't be that well armoured, and you've got someone with a gun at point blank range. You can't stay where you are otherwise you're in immediate danger, and your only route is to get out of the car immediately in front of the person with the gun. So you shoot, you have to, because if you don't and it really is a gun, you're probably not going home.

That much is somewhat understandable. But that doesn't make it ok, because there's context, and in context the officers put themselves in that position. Whose idea was that? There's no reasonable way where that approach would end in anything other than someone getting shot.

Before I saw this, I thought maybe there was something the kid did to get himself shot - non compliance, threatening behaviour, something, anything. Looking at this, I'd have probably been pumped full of lead and left to bleed out, same as him. They gave him no chance, and they gave themselves no choice. If it were up to me, I'd not even hang them out to dry, I'd just hang them.

Bob said...

m4 pretty much suns it all up:

"They gave him no chance, and they gave themselves no choice."

My Friends and I - in our preteens - used to play good guy/bad guy with toy pistols that looked remarkably real, no orange painted barrels in those days. But we played far and away from a crowded shopping center. and even so, the cops in those days would not identified us a members of an increasingly hostile minority.

The actions of hostile black mobs across the nation were no doubt a major factor in the death of this boy.

Actions have consequences, often reaching far beyond where anyone would imagine.

Anonymous said...

Another aspect of the problem to consider is: Who gets to be a cop?

Most big city (and not so big city) police forces are under control of the Justice Department to see that the the proper number of specific groups become cops and are promoted.

A major city near me had their entire hiring / promotion system thrown out by Eric Holder because none of his favored groups passed the tests.

That system had been laboriously put together with participation of ALL interested groups and had the seal of approval of ALL state, local and Federal government agencies.

Yet, when the agreed to system did not produce the "proper" results, it was trashed and standards were lowered, yet again.

Policing is a tough job and requires split second decisions - the right ones - to deal with / defuse volatile situations. That requires brain power, experience and judgement.

If federally imposed regulations do not allow people who possess those qualities to become cops and be promoted we will continue to see these bad decisions be made. It's a Catch-22 set up by the government itself.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, this is not new footage. It has been out since day afterwards.
This edited part does not show the kid running around practicing his shooting stance and aiming at stuff off camera. It did look fairly menacing, not what I consider smart actions in the park.
NOT condoning what the cops did though. Surveillance? Nope. Intelligent approach (cause it was a gun call- NOT a shooting call! Nope!~Strategic entrance? pfft. Pull up and shoot- I'd say THAT is clear.
Directly after-What is guy doing behind car- is that the shooter? Is he barfing?
They are idiots.
Anyway- what a mess. They screwed it ALL up- and yah, they should be in trouble!
But NO- lets have more media circus/Freak out!
Not concisely address the situation...
Angry enough to say something,but I waste my breathe:(
CLEARLY- don't put yourself in a position to attract attention, and good luck with THAT, too.

Anonymous said...

the performance of one of the officers involved had been very poorly rated at a previous agency where he'd worked

This is another issue that badly needs to be addressed. If the issue truly is a "few bad apples", the tendency of these "bad apples" to be let go and immediately hired by some other police department in another town or state because HR is unwilling these days to say anything beyond "they worked here from X to Y" is a blight that needs to be addressed. Perhaps being released from any law enforcement agency should come with a standard set of discharges, much like the military. When police release you because you screwed up and shot someone you shouldn't have, or fire you because you're a loose cannon, you should be discharged with an other than honorable or dishonorable discharge and other agencies can react to that as they see fit.

Of course that would require the police forces to discharge you with the proper discharges, but at least it might be a step in the right direction.

Though the major problem is implementing some sort of standard. The federal government has no authority to do such a thing, and the states can, but it won't be universal.

Sungor said...

One of the findings of the Department of Justice (which did not take this case into consideration since Rice was shot while the investigation was having the finishing touches put on it) was that CPD (Cleveland Police Department) officers use tactics that often unnecessarily place themselves in situations where deadly force is a foregone conclusion and the only possible outcome.

Another highlighted problem was a lack of accountability in regards to Use of Force.

~Katherine~ said...

Anonymous 2:34

As I understand it, the issue you mention stems from our lawsuit-happy culture. An HR manager once explained to me rather bitterly that no matter how much of an idiot a former worker was, all she could say to a manager from another company who was interviewing said idiot was "He worked here from this date to this." She wasn't allowed to say, for example, "and in those six months, he incurred our store no less than $5,000 in fines from the local health department and $15,000 from the department of labor due to his total disregard for basic food safety rules and juvenile labor laws."

The mind boggles, it really does. I would like to think that at the very least police and law enforcement agencies ought to be protected from such lawsuits so that they can be honest about previous employees.

Anonymous said...

Katherine--Actually- you can say this when asked about BAD former employees,
"ahhh....I suggest you CAREFULLY evaluate the application you received..."
That sends the message and will be acceptable to 'legal consul'. Fact!
And sad that it has to be so lilylivered...

Shell said...

A couple of others have noted it but I'll do so again anyway because it bears repeating. The *only* result of their driving up on the grass next to the boy was precisely what happened. No observation of the area, no checking the background (just as in the Crawford case, if no one is panicking, why are the cops so amped up and ready to shoot?), no judgement used in any way. "Hot shit, somebody with a gun! Step on it, Batman, there are bad guys to defeat!" Brainless badge-heavy wankers.

Anonymous said...

From what I have read, the Ferguson incident was blatant martyrdom by cop, for the purpose of creating a riot or series of riots. The Moslem terrorists have proven out of chaos comes ISIS or ISIL, at least to their own satisfaction. The criticisms I have seen all assume that Michael Brown was acting in a logical manner. He was, but only for an act of suicide. I suspect his "friend" was in communication and a list of his phone calls would be instructive. Geoff Who is very suspicious of someone who deliberately commits a felony and then deliberately attracts police attention.

NornIron Lad said...

Wow! I have watched this several times now and still cannot get my head round the fact that I am watching police in a modern American city, not a drugs hit, not a terrorist attack in stolen uniforms, not footage from some of the dodgier parts of the former Soviet Union or (minus the snow) some death squad in a South American favela.

To cap it all, as pointed out, the Cleveland police appear to support even this level of brutality.

Cops have a tough job, I have relatives and friends who served in the RUC during the Troubles and appreciate the hazards they faced; snipers, RPG attacks, cars booby trapped in their front drives. However police must be held to the highest standards. Otherwise, as the saying goes, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

But then, like Peter, I assume police are held to the principles laid down by Robert Peel.