Police “Protection”

 

In a nation of 300+ million people, the occasional tale of legendary idiocy or corruption is to be expected. Hey, it happens. A few incidents across one of the largest nations on Earth is not a trend.

What grabs my attention in Mark Steyn’s latest column, however, is the long series of high-ranking officials who are apparently willing to excuse the inexcusable — a young man, wrongly suspected of stealing a car, taking a bullet (which collapsed his lung) from a policeman after objecting to the cops’ rough treatment of his mother: 

The District Court found for the coppers, and so did the Fifth Circuit, ruling that “Get your [expletive] hands off my mom” constituted a “verbal threat” and, from a guy on his knees 15-20 feet away, “an immediate threat to the safety of the officers” – rather than (as we approach Mother’s Day) what ought to be the sentiment of any self-respecting young man seeing somebody physically assault his mom.

The Supreme Court has now vacated the Fifth Circuit’s decision, and “remanded the case for further proceedings” [….]

Mark doesn’t bother to mention the police department’s willingness to defend this action. But let’s group those officials with the senior judges who believe this is legal. 

According to the District Court ruling mentioned here, “the officer was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate any clearly established right.” This is later clarified as a federal right. Alas, there is no federal right to continue breathing.

Steyn goes on to summarize other recent cases of quick-on-the-draw police officers. 

When the adrenalin’s pumping and seconds count, I’m willing to cut police plenty of slack. But I do wonder sometimes. 

What do you think of Mark’s conclusion? Are these cases symptoms of widespread problems? What should be the consequences of such severe mistakes by police when the accused are indeed innocent?

There are 51 comments.

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  1. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    It is a problem that is becoming endemic.

    • #1
  2. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    The fix is all the recording going on. Publicity is the best way to make sure people in authority do the right thing.

    • #2
  3. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Stein left out that in most of these cases the LEO was most likely put on administrative leave, meaning that their punishment was to take one month to a year or so off work with pay as emotions cool down and the systems can CYA. What a punishment, screw up at work and kill somebody and get a paid vacation with benefits. Government at its best.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    • #4
  5. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    I think Steyn nailed it here:

    Anyone who goes into law enforcement assumes the risk that a traffic stop might turn out to be something more. Mr Tolan, Miss Ramsey and the rest of us should not have to assume any such risk. In routine encounters with law enforcement, a citizen should not have to weigh the likelihood that the officer will decide to shoot him dead. That’s about as basic a standard for civilized society as one can muster.

    As Aaron said, mistakes happen, it’s a big country, and police do dangerous work. That said, there does seem to be a steady stream of incidents, such as this one, where police turn non-violent situations into a violent ones. Sometimes it’s understandable, but often times officers use their monopoly on force in ways that are not defensible.

    I don’t envy police officers their work and when they do it well, they are the protectors of peace and property, and deserve our respect. When they do it badly, they’re armed thugs at best, and jack-booted goons at worst.

    • #5
  6. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Qualified immunity… Where does that come from?

    “…But modern doctrines of official immunity — which are basically judge-made, and a result of “judicial activism” of the first order — make that impossible. There’s no constitutional basis for immunity on the part of police or their supervisors; it’s just something judges think is a good idea. Nonetheless, it’s not going anywhere — as part of my efforts to get something done about no-knock raids, I was recently told that, even in the Democratic Congress, it’s not going to be possible to do anything about official immunity.”

    That’s the real outrage. They’re literally getting away with murder (or rape), aided and abetted by the judiciary.

    • #6
  7. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    iWc:

    The fix is all the recording going on. Publicity is the best way to make sure people in authority do the right thing.

    Tom Meyer: That said, there does seem to be a steady stream of incidents, such as this one, where police turn non-violent situations into a violent ones. Sometimes it’s understandable, but often times officers use their monopoly on force in ways that are not defensible.

    Maybe these incidents were already very common and all that has changed in recent decades is that now we have video and audio evidence.

    • #7
  8. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Aaron Miller: Maybe these incidents were already very common and all that has changed in recent decades is that now we have video and audio evidence.

    That’s almost certainly a major factor.

    Another factor — though not relevant to the cases Steyn was talking about is a slow change in outlook within some police forces, coupled by the excesses of the drug war rhetoric, that can only contribute to police over-reach. Here’s the latest example, a tweet from the governor of Michigan of the State Police SWAT team:

    • #8
  9. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    BmpM8jRCUAAe6zx

    There are good reasons for state police agencies to have SWAT teams. In fact, it’s far preferable for a well-funded, well-trained, full-time SWAT team from a state police outpost to respond to emergency situations than for every small town in America to have a SWAT team of its own…

    [But even] if one could fathom such a scenario or two [where it’s appropriate for police to dress like this, it’s also regrettable that this is the face the Michigan State Police want to project to the public. These guys aren’t the military. Their mission is not to annihilate a foreign enemy on a battlefield. They’re domestic police officers who serve the residents of Michigan. Their mission is to protect the constitutional rights of those residents. It’s important that they, our elected officials and we all know and appreciate the difference.

    • #9
  10. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Aaron Miller:

    In a nation of 300+ million people, the occasional tale of legendary idiocy or corruption is to be expected. Hey, it happens.

    Agreed. The systematic problem is that when a cop behaves badly, the law enforcement system tends to back him up. A cop might run a red light in a non-emergency situation and crash into another car, and in some towns it’s the innocent motorist who is in trouble. Even if the other cops know what really happened, the system stands with the man with the badge. I’m not saying it happens everywhere, but it does happen.

    • #10
  11. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Randy Weivoda: The systematic problem is that when a cop behaves badly, the law enforcement system tends to back him up. A cop might run a red light in a non-emergency situation and crash into another car, and in some towns it’s the innocent motorist who is in trouble. Even if the other cops know what really happened, the system stands with the man with the badge. I’m not saying it happens everywhere, but it does happen.

    At the risk of citing fiction as anecdote (doubly dangerous), there’s a scene in the second episode of The Wire that shows how this can happen better than anything I’ve read: commanders need their men to know that they have their backs at all times. It’s very, very easy to see how a wholly-genuine desire to be loyal and maintain unit cohesion can be perverted into committing injustice.

    • #11
  12. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I was treated so rudely by a policeman at our local station that I am afraid I am jaded. Anyone who has trouble now with a cop gets the benefit of my doubt. 

    One part of the VERY long story was when the cop kept telling me to “stop yelling” and “to calm down”. I never raised my voice once and explained more than once that my biggest emotion was incredulity that my desire to visit my daughter – during visiting hours – couldn’t be accommodated. 

    he told me I was obnoxious and so was my attorney. I explained I didn’t have an attorney as I had been accused of no crime. And if he had a problem with my daughter’s attorney that was certainly none of my business. 

    Once I got that obnoxious attorney to call the station, all of a sudden my request was accommodated. Still annoys me no end that my tax dollars pay that guy’s salary.

    • #12
  13. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Tom Meyer: they are the protectors of peace and property,

     That’s the problem. We’ve lost the idea that We, the Individual, the Free Citizen, are the protectors of Our Own peace and property.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Tom Meyer: [But even] if one could fathom such a scenario or two [where it’s appropriate for police to dress like this, it’s also regrettable that this is the face the Michigan State Police want to project to the public.

    Project to the public? Nah, that’s their deer-huntin’ photo.

    • #14
  15. Sisyphus Inactive
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    There was the policeman I knew fairly well until the day that, on hearing a man being tortured during a breakin, he went in before his backup arrived. He was a good man.

    Then there was the woman who spent 10 hours in a police station basement handcuffed to a ceiling pipe while being interrogated. Her high school student daughter had rebuffed the attentions of a thug who turned out to be a paid police informant. The punk told the county police a story to teach the daughter a lesson. The citizens of the county paid for the legal settlement, of course.

    I don’t expect perfection from law enforcement, but I expect due diligence and good faith. When he took the job, Obama said he wanted a million man domestic army. Posse Comitatus? Now there are SWAT teams behind every tree and under every rock that need to be justified against someone, somewhere.

    And the Regime is taking punitive action against whole industries that offend his deep sense of social justice, using banking regulators and the DoJ to harass pay day loan shops with extreme prejudice in his latest clown car disaster. Obama is a godsend for loan sharks.

    • #15
  16. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    There is no such thing as “police protection”. The courts have repeatedly, forcefully, and consistently said that the police have no duty to defend the populace. Their job is clearly the enforcement of law.

    The only reason this is dangerous is that we have proliferated laws to the degree that now regular citizens are not only confounded by upset with the enforcement of law. Look at drug laws. More than anything else, and just like Prohibition, they have been the source of incredible wealth to the purveyors of the product and the expansion of the bureaurocracy to interfer with it.

    The Hollywood portrayal of the violent life of a cop is just that – Hollywood. There are certainly some dangers, but then, there are also vests and guns to reduce those dangers. I would submit being a clerk in one of the 7-11’s might be a good bit more dangerous.

    This reckless militarization has got to stop. We will lose any legitimacy for police is we allow it to continue. Seal Team 6 is not necessary for traffic stops.

    • #16
  17. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Devereaux:

    The Hollywood portrayal of the violent life of a cop is just that – Hollywood. There are certainly some dangers, but then, there are also vests and guns to reduce those dangers. I would submit being a clerk in one of the 7-11′s might be a good bit more dangerous.

    I haven’t seen any articles on this lately but maybe ten years ago I read that the occupation that was most likely to get you killed on the job was a hotel clerk. I would think that not many people pay for hotels rooms with cash any more, so I don’t know why hotels would be held up that often. I would think gas stations and liquor stores would be the ripest targets. On the other hand, there may be hotels that are known to be frequented by adulterers and prostitution customers. They would want to pay in cash rather than have to explain to a spouse why there’s a credit card charge for a hotel. I actually have stayed in a motel where the clerk was behind the thickest plexiglass I’ve ever seen.

    • #17
  18. Arjay Member
    Arjay
    @

    Last time I saw a list of dangerous occupations, police officer wasn’t real close to the top of the list.

    Also, the country could use a lot fewer SWAT teams. Civilian officers playing soldier. It would be amusing if it weren’t so risky.

    • #18
  19. Look Away Inactive
    Look Away
    @LookAway

    As a Boomer I find it oh so ironic that my peers that named them “pigs” are so silent now that they are in charge.

    • #19
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    My brother is a retired medium-to-large-sized-city cop. I also had a former employer who was a retired cop.

    The problem is that the police spend much of their time dealing with total scumbags. So they start to view everyone through that lens. My former employers wife made him undertake a career change because she didn’t like the personality change she was seeing in him after several years on the job.

    Maybe the solution is “term limits” for police. Ten years and out.

    • #20
  21. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Miffed White Male: Maybe the solution is “term limits” for police.

    Maybe We should vote for officers.

    • #21
  22. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Miffed White Male:

    My brother is a retired medium-to-large-sized-city cop. I also had a former employer who was a retired cop.

    The problem is that the police spend much of their time dealing with total scumbags. So they start to view everyone through that lens. My former employers wife made him undertake a career change because she didn’t like the personality change she was seeing in him after several years on the job.

     While I think there’s truth in this comment in some cases, it’s certainly not the case in my sleepy little town. Not only do I not lock my back door (and seldom my front door, for that matter), I don’t even have keys for them. We’ve lived here for 25 years and there’s been no uptick in crime.

    What we have seen is an uptick of cops with a bad attitude. My two youngest boys have had more conversations and run-ins with cops in their short lives than anyone I know who is my age. One dresses a little sketch and one drove a old car.

    It got so bad we got a newer old car …

    • #22
  23. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    … and while I would love to have some influence on the wardrobe choices of the other, so far no luck.

    He wore a uniform to school for 12 years and never complained once, so I am inclined to be a little indulgent.

    • #23
  24. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    In the fast districts of a big city, things can get a little sketchy. From time to time an officer is attacked while on a routine traffic stop. But please note that regular citizens are assaulted at far higher rate and generally one doesn’t consider “citizen” a dangerous occupation.

    Cops once had street smarts. Today they have criminal justice degrees – not much about being on the street that you learn in college. Talk to most big city cops about the FBI and you hear the “college boy” comment. Yet today the run of the mill cops are of the same cut. Picture how you would like seeing the FBI doing traffic – a lot like the state police “troopers”.

    Masaad Ayoob, a person who often testifies in lethal force use cases for defendants, just wrote a piece defending the militarization of the police in American Handgunner. He began with rational points. But he totally lost me when he attempted to justify the MRAP vehicles police have been getting. THE BLUE LINE closes ranks again.

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Devereaux: Cops once had street smarts. Today they have criminal justice degrees – not much about being on the street that you learn in college. Talk to most big city cops about the FBI and you hear the “college boy” comment.

    Oh, yes. I don’t know how many times growing up I heard terms like the Fat Boys’ Institute. And you talk about street smarts? My father’s training officer brought him to our street, pointed out all the cars that were one way or another in violation of parking ordinances and gave my dad the ticket book to start writing tickets. My father had, among other things, been in the army and was no fool. He signed his training officer’s name to the tickets. The senior officer didn’t even figure it out until his next court date. There was no way Dad was going to alienate the neighbors.

    • #25
  26. user_646218 Member
    user_646218
    @

    Is Mr. J. Dunphy on leave? This is crying out for his perspective as a LA cop.
    I am inclined to believe it has always been thus, but it is better documented now.

    • #26
  27. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Jimmy Carter:

    Miffed White Male: Maybe the solution is “term limits” for police.

    Maybe We should vote for officers.

     and have them campaign on what laws they will/won’t enforce, and for whom?

    • #27
  28. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    kylez: and have them campaign on what laws they will/won’t enforce, and for whom?

    Yeah, I don’t see that ending well.

    • #28
  29. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Tom Meyer:

    There are good reasons for state police agencies to have SWAT teams. In fact, it’s far preferable for a well-funded, well-trained, full-time SWAT team from a state police outpost to respond to emergency situations than for every small town in America to have a SWAT team of its own…

    [But even] if one could fathom such a scenario or two [where it’s appropriate for police to dress like this, it’s also regrettable that this is the face the Michigan State Police want to project to the public. These guys aren’t the military. Their mission is not to annihilate a foreign enemy on a battlefield. They’re domestic police officers who serve the residents of Michigan. Their mission is to protect the constitutional rights of those residents. It’s important that they, our elected officials and we all know and appreciate the difference.

     The police are under local authority as peace officers. They should NEVER be wearing military uniforms. That changes their mission, and they begin to look like a standing army. SWAT teams should be in police blues, not warriors fatigues. This is indefensible.

    • #29
  30. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Ed Hasell:

    Is Mr. J. Dunphy on leave? This is crying out for his perspective as a LA cop. I am inclined to believe it has always been thus, but it is better documented now.

    I have no statistics to back up my claim, but I don’t think this is true. I haven’t gotten a lot of tickets, but the difference in cops’ attitude between now and 20 years ago is significant. My husband, BILs and brothers managed to get to adulthood with very little interaction with cops. Exact opposite with my sons and nephews. They have more stories than I can count.

    • #30

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