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It Was Not a Time to Wait


My most recent piece over at PJ Media deals with the May 24 horrors of Uvalde, more specifically what the police did and did not do when alerted to the gunman’s presence at the school. When I first learned of the massacre and the timeline originally disseminated, I assumed the first reports were in error, as first reports often are. I reasoned it couldn’t possibly have taken police more than an hour to locate and neutralize the shooter. Then, as more details emerged, the timeline remained largely unchanged. I waited until Friday to write about it in the expectation some justification for the delay would be revealed. None was, nor has it been since.

I remain aghast that the gunman was not shot until 80 minutes had elapsed from the first 911 call, and though I have no knowledge of the incident beyond what has been published in news reports, I do have some insight into how police supervisors cope when they find themselves suddenly thrust into a crisis. Some can handle it, too many others cannot. It would appear that Pete Arredondo, the school district police chief, falls into the latter category.

I will grant that I have never faced a situation so fraught as that which occurred in Uvalde, but I have served many search warrants in my police career, some of which did not go as planned when the entry was impeded by a suspect’s resistance or an unforeseen obstacle. The lesson is this: When Plan A isn’t working, you must switch to Plan B, and then to C and D if necessary. As I say in the PJ Media piece, if you can’t go through the door, try the window. And if that doesn’t work, break down a wall or chop through the roof – anything but wait.

Even if it was the case, as Arredondo is reported to have believed, that the incident had shifted from an active shooter to a barricaded suspect, there is still no excuse for such a lengthy delay in entering that classroom. Most gunshot wounds are survivable if the victim receives prompt medical attention, a service denied to those 19 precious children and their two teachers.

Cops can have all the equipment and training the world can provide, but it’s all useless if they’re not properly led.

Dave Chappelle and the Death of Free Speech


With apologies for my prolonged absence from Ricochet, I wanted to call the members’ attention to my most recent contribution at The Pipeline, in which I address the Dave Chappelle incident at the Hollywood Bowl and the death of free speech. An excerpt:

In comedy’s long history, practitioners of the trade have been cloaked with what was once known as the “jester’s privilege,” a certain license that protected them from consequences when they made an observation that, from another’s lips, would have been viewed as transgressive. As should now be obvious to all, the jester’s privilege is dead.

I also address the issue of the appropriate charges against Chappelle’s alleged attacker, Isaiah Lee. There has been much criticism of Los Angeles County district attorney George Gascón for his refusal to file felony charges against Lee, and loath as I am to defend Gascón, in this case he is an example of the proverbial stopped clock. Under California law, the attack did not amount to a felony.

If anyone has further questions about the charges against Lee, I’ll be happy to engage in the comments.

Who Killed Ashli Babbitt, and Why?


Greetings, Ricochetti. With apologies for my long absence from the site, I return today to bring your attention to a piece I’ve written for The Pipeline, “Who Killed Ashli Babbitt?” You’ll recall that Babbitt was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer during the so-called insurrection of Jan. 6. She was unarmed and did not appear to pose a threat to anyone at the time she was shot.

In a time when police shootings far more justifiable than this one are endlessly scrutinized in the press, how is it that Babbitt’s death has escaped even a fraction of the coverage devoted to other police killings? Here’s a sample from the piece:

At the time the shot was fired, the Speaker’s Lobby appeared to be empty save for the shooter and two or three men walking casually at the far end. Babbitt, who was of slight build, carried neither a weapon nor anything that might reasonably be mistaken for one. The officer was about ten feet away from Babbitt when he shot her and cannot reasonably claim he was under an imminent deadly attack at the time, nor can he claim he was defending someone else from such an attack as no one else visible on the far side of the doorway appeared to be closer than fifty feet away. If it is true that the officer fired in self-defense or the defense of others, what was his explanation for doing so when no justification is evident in the video, the only publicly available evidence we have? The government will not say.

I didn’t choose the headline for the piece, and for me the question of who killed Babbitt is of far less importance than why he did. As I write in the piece, local police departments are far more transparent in their investigations of officer-involved shootings than they were just a few years ago. Why should officers working for the federal government be governed by a lesser standard? Why should the Department of Justice be allowed to issue a brief memo saying the officer was faultless and expect us to leave it at that and go away? And why have the media, who have been so quick to condemn police officers involved in far less questionable incidents, been so incurious about Ashli Babbitt’s death?

Please read the column and weigh in here with your comments. And if anyone wishes to catch up with my recent writing, my articles for The Pipeline can be found here, my work for PJ Media is here, and my NRO archive is here.

The (Much Less) Dismal Choice


Four years ago, on the eve of our last presidential election, I posted here on Ricochet a piece I called “The Dismal Choice,” in which I lamented having to choose between two candidates who, each for different reasons, were in my view unfit for the job.

In deciding to vote for Donald Trump, I reasoned thus:

When I contemplate the choice to be made on Tuesday, I think of myself as a driver descending a mountain road when I discover my brakes have gone out. As my car accelerates, I realize I have only two choices: I can either steer into the mountainside or drive off the cliff, either of which will likely bring my doom. But while steering into the mountainside will bring certain death, driving off the cliff offers the hope, however slim, that my car will land on some forgiving surface and allow me to escape with my life. Or perhaps, like the title character in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, I will be plucked from midair into an alien spaceship and then delivered to safety. You never know. And even if I’m killed in a fiery crash, I’ll see some interesting things on my way down.

If I may so immodest as to judge my own work, I’d say the metaphor has held up well over these four years, which have at times seemed very much like a plunge from the side of a mountain road, with moments of terror and confusion interspersed with, yes, some diverting sights along the way. And there have been many successes as well, far more than I would have dared hope for when Mr. Trump was inaugurated. We’ve seen the appointment of three Supreme Court justices, more than 50 judges in the federal courts of appeals, and more than 160 to the federal district courts. Imagine if these vacancies had been filled by a President Hillary Clinton.

The American economy, before being hobbled by the coronavirus, was as strong as it’s ever been, with the return of jobs the Obama-ites told us had gone overseas or otherwise disappeared forever. The U.S. embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where it rightly belongs, and far from experiencing the apocalypse predicted by the John Kerry crowd, Israel is making peace with its neighbors one by one. And, of particular importance to me, President Trump has been unabashed in his support for law enforcement, a welcome departure from the default position of his predecessor.

All of this has occurred as the president endured a relentless assault by the elite media, the entertainment industry, academia, Democrats in Congress, and even members of his own administration, all of whom have downplayed or even ignored his achievements while amplifying his perceived shortcomings. It is important to note that many of our fellow citizens have formed their opinions of Mr. Trump based on what they have consumed in the media, the members of which are all but uniform in their loathing for the man. With very few exceptions, every word written or spoken about the president for four years has been drafted, edited, and presented by people who not only despise him, but also anyone so abased as to not share their low opinion of him. And somehow, despite all their best efforts, President Trump stands today with a reasonable chance of winning reelection. For those who find this prospect horrifying, I offer this counsel: Prepare yourselves; through the last campaign, through the Mueller investigation, the Ukraine impeachment farce, through every bit of dirt his opponents have continuously heaped upon him, Mr. Trump has gotten the last laugh every single time.

As I said in the piece four years ago, I acknowledge Mr. Trump’s character flaws. I long to vote for a candidate who is conservative, loyal to his wife, unblemished by shady business dealings, doesn’t use Twitter, and who shies from the spotlight. Alas, no such person is on the ballot, leaving me once again with a choice between two deeply flawed candidates. Faced with such a choice, I opt for the more conservative one.

The Democrats have had four years to produce an alternative to Mr. Trump, and the man they put forward is Joe Biden, with the thoroughly unappealing Kamala Harris in the wings as the understudy. It’s embarrassing to admit it now, but I was once a Democrat and may have found such a ticket attractive. A few years in police work dislodged the scales from my eyes, but even before embarking on my own Road to Damascus, I found Biden to be a pompous gasbag. He still is.

So here’s to four more years, and look out below.

Don’t Rebuild Those Burned-Out Businesses Just Yet


Over at PJ Media today, I offer the recommendation that people hold off on rebuilding any burned-out business in Minneapolis and elsewhere. Body camera footage from two of the officers charged in George Floyd’s death has been leaked to the Daily Mail, and it does not inspire confidence in the prosecutors’ case. A month ago, writing at National Review Online, I speculated on why Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison had not released the body camera footage to the public. “Could it be,” I asked, “that it has been withheld because it does not bolster the case against the defendants?”

With the leak of the surreptitiously recorded video copies, this appears this is the case. The videos show Floyd’s resistance to being put in a police car after being arrested, and they reveal how many times Floyd claimed he could not breathe despite clear evidence that he could. “The criminal charges in this case,” I write in the PJ Media column, “stem from the officers’ inability to divine when Floyd’s feigned distress, including the earlier claims he could not breathe, became real. Even if they had realized Floyd had suffered a heart attack and begun CPR immediately, there will be a divergence of medical opinions as to whether Floyd could have survived.”

Floyd’s autopsy documents the presence of both fentanyl and methamphetamine in his blood, either of which can cause a fatal arrhythmia even in a healthy person. For someone afflicted with heart disease as Floyd was, we can fairly assume the risks using these drugs is even greater.

I summarize my argument as follows:

So, the question for the judge or jury will be: Did Floyd die because the officers applied unlawful force, or was it because he, with a diseased heart and after consuming dangerous drugs, so vigorously resisted their use of lawful force? The current state of the evidence provides no clear answer, which translates to reasonable doubt and an acquittal.

As is often the case, the comments to the piece at PJ Media are less than edifying, but I look forward to reading the opinions of my fellow Ricochetti.

(Over)Policing the Pandemic


I have a new column over at PJ Media, again lamenting that police officers have been impressed into service as the enforcers of whatever restrictions some governor, mayor, or local health official feels necessary to stem the coronavirus. As expected things have gotten worse since I last raised the issue. An excerpt from the latest column:

Since [my previous column] was posted, we have seen police officers issuing $500 citations for the crime of attending a drive-in church service, and others arresting an Idaho woman who dared take her kids to a closed playground. Indeed, social media is awash with similar tales, which are all the more insulting to the average citizen when accompanied by stories of criminals released from jail only to re-offend within hours.

With the accumulation of these stories, the populace grows ever more restive at the restraints placed upon them. If the law and civil authority are to be respected, the laws must be respectable, at least to a majority of those on whom they are imposed.

Today we learn that deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the same people who earlier this month cracked down on people watching a sunset, have arrested protesters in the town of Encinitas for the crime of “stepping foot onto a closed beach.” The horror! The sheriff and his underlings, like so many cops across the country, need a refresher on the First Amendment, which I can only hope they’ll get when these arrests are challenged in court.

Policing the Pandemic


I have a new piece up over at PJ Media in which I discuss some of the more bizarre incidents of overzealous law enforcement going on across Southern California in the name of keeping us “safe” from the coronavirus. I’m sure members of the Ricochetti across the country can describe similar happenings in their own cities and towns.

I do not discount the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, I am of a sufficiently advanced age to be considered a high-risk patient if I were to contract the disease. But neither do I discount the genuine threat to liberty posed by the various orders, decrees, edicts, and mandates lately imposed by the nation’s governors, mayors, health commissioners, and every other sort of government functionary exercising their newly discovered power to limit the freedom of their fellow citizens. In the case of the people being hassled for watching the sunset, cited above, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was so proud of this exercise of authority that they made it their pinned tweet on their Twitter account.

Surely the publicity that has attended these enforcement actions will reduce the incidence of surfing, sunset-watching, and paddle boarding up and down the coast of Southern California, but at what cost to the already eroding level of respect for law enforcement? Making matters worse is the decision to grant early release to 3,500 inmates in California so as to avert a coronavirus outbreak in the state’s 35 prisons. That’s right, while ordinarily law-abiding people are rousted by the police for daring to engage in harmless activities so as to avoid going stir crazy, convicted felons are being sprung from prison. Yes, we must release all those burglars, car thieves, and con artists to make room for the expected wave of surfers, paddle boarders, and sunset watchers. One feels safer already.

What galls me most about these crackdowns on people merely trying to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine is that they’re being done while genuine crime goes unaddressed. As always, I welcome the thoughtful comments from members of our little community.

Police Pursuits: What Would You Do?


My fellow Ricochetti, I invite you to imagine yourself as a police officer on patrol. While driving in your squad car you hear a radio broadcast of a robbery that has just occurred, one in which the suspect shot the victim. You are supplied with a description of the suspect and his getaway car, and moments later you spot him driving. You radio for backup and continue to follow at a distance, and when your backup arrives you try to pull the suspect over. Rather than stop, he accelerates away and a pursuit begins.

Conditions for the chase are relatively safe at the outset, with light traffic and no outrageously erratic driving by the suspect. But as the suspect’s desperation increases, so too does his recklessness, and before long he sideswipes a car, drives on a sidewalk, and does other things indicating he will try anything to escape. You are informed the car the suspect is driving in stolen, offering you no clue as to the suspect’s identity.

While taking a turn too fast, the suspect spins out and strikes a parked car, coming to rest momentarily right in front of you. You and your backup officers maneuver your cars so as block him in, but he continues his effort to escape by ramming your car and trying to push it out of his way.

What do you do?

Speaking for myself, I shoot the suspect, thereby ending the dangerous chase and averting the peril to the suspect’s future robbery victims.

My two most recent contributions over at PJ Media concern these issues. In the first, I wrote about an incident in Baltimore in which a man tried to kill two police officers (one by running him down, the other by shooting at him), yet was allowed to escape when a supervisor terminated the pursuit. The man was shot and killed two days later after another car chase.

In the second column, I argue that police officers in these situations should observe the guidelines set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014), in which a unanimous Court held that officers did not violate the Constitution when they used deadly force to bring a dangerous chase to an end.

At this stage of my police career, I’m largely confined to investigations and court appearances, but I still drive a car with emergency lights and a siren. I’m resolved to the commitment that I won’t watch idly as some fleeing criminal injures or kills someone when I have been placed in a position to prevent it.

But what about you? As always, I look forward to reading the thoughtful opinions of the Ricochet community.

The Jussie Smollett Show Lives On


Jussie Smollett /

Jussie Smollett’s acting career may not have ended after all. No, he will not be appearing in the final season of Empire, the show whose cancellation is due at least in part to his misbehavior. And no, he has not been cast in any new productions coming to screens large or small. But, owing to a Friday ruling by a Cook County judge, the Jussie Smollett Reality Show, which was far more compelling and widely watched than Empire on its best day, and which came to an abrupt and bizarre conclusion with the dismissing of all charges against him, will continue.

Recall that the saga began last January when Smollett, who in the small hours of a frigid Chicago night was walking home after purchasing a sandwich, was set upon by two men, both wearing MAGA hats, who beat and poured noxious liquid on him, verbally assaulted him with racist and homophobic epithets, and, in a final gratuitous insult, placed a noose around his head.
Or so he claimed.

As anyone of common sense suspected from the start, the allegations were a fraud. The “attack,” as Chicago P.D. detectives proved, was staged with the help of two of Smollett’s associates. In February, a Cook County grand jury returned an indictment charging Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. Despite abundant evidence of his dishonesty, the charges against Smollett were dropped on March 26, a disposition that judge Michael Toomin described in his ruling as one that “shocked officialdom as well as the community.”

It appeared for a while that Smollett would escape punishment for perpetrating so costly a hoax on the city of Chicago. Then entered former state appellate judge Sheila O’Brien, who filed a petition for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the matter. Judge Toomin has now granted that request, concluding his ruling thus: “Although disqualification of the duly elected State’s Attorney necessarily impacts constitutional concerns, the unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

So maybe, just maybe, Jussie Smollett will get his just deserts after all. But it’s still Chicago, remember, a city with a long and inglorious history of corruption (some of which I explore in my most recent PJ Media column), so it’s hardly beyond all imaginings that hidden levers within the criminal justice machinery might be pulled to Smollett’s benefit, just as they were before. Call it the Chicago Way.

The scripts for the final episodes of the Jussie Smollett Reality Show have not yet been written, but the show must go on.

Mohammed Noor Guilty of Murder, Manslaughter in Death of Justine Damond


To the surprise of no one who followed the case, former Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Noor was found guilty yesterday in the killing of Justine Damond. Recall that in July 2017, Noor was one of two police officers to respond to Damond’s 911 call regarding a possible sexual assault in progress near her home. After the police car passed down the alley behind her home, Damond approached the officers as they sat in their car. Noor, startled by Damond’s sudden appearance, shot her.

As I wrote at the time on PJ Media, I could not imagine any jury entertaining the suggestion that Noor had a reasonable fear for his safety, the standard governing police use of deadly force established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor. As I anticipated, Noor’s defense relied on the testimony of a police use-of-force “expert” who tried to persuade the jury that Noor’s fatal response to Damond’s surprise approach was reasonable. A quote from my PJ Media piece:

Assuming that Noor does not present a defense that claims the shooting was accidental, his only hope to avoid a conviction is to find a police use-of-force expert who can persuade the jury that, from Noor’s perspective, Damond’s sudden appearance at the side of the police car, taken together with the loud noise reported by Officer Harrity, constituted a deadly threat. This is laughable, but one can find so-called “experts” to testify to almost anything, and we can expect this sort of testimony in the case should Noor not accept a plea deal and proceed to trial.

Lou Raguse, a reporter for KARE in Minneapolis, interviewed one of the jurors, who told him he (or she, as the case may be; the juror’s identity is protected) was unpersuaded by the testimony offered by Noor and the defense’s expert. “I felt like that case was lost (for the defense),” said the juror, “between the two experts witnesses on the prosecution side and Noor and [defense expert] Emanuel Kapelsohn.”

For anyone curious about the intricacies of the case, Powerline’s Scott Johnson, an attorney himself, attended court through the trial and posted thoughtful commentary on each day’s developments. The collected posts can be viewed here.

Now convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter, Noor will be sentenced on June 7.

On ‘Saint’ Nipsey Hussle, an Alternative View


My most recent contribution over at PJ Media concerns what I believe to be the inordinate adulation shown to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle. Hussle, whose true name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot to death on March 31 outside the clothing store he owned in Los Angeles. Eric Holder (no, not that one) has been arrested and charged with murder in the case.

On April 11, Hussle’s funeral was held before an audience of 21,000 in LA’s Staples Center, making him the second person so honored. (The first was Michael Jackson; make of that what you will.) After the funeral, Hussle’s hearse led a chaotic procession on a 25-mile tour of South Los Angeles, a tour which, as I noted in the piece, scarcely passed a single block that hadn’t been the scene of at least one murder in the last 20 years. LAPD brass called the event a success when only four people were shot (one fatally) and only four police cars were vandalized.

South Los Angeles is policed by four patrol divisions within the LAPD, Southwest, 77th Street, Southeast, and Newton, and at various times in my career with the department I worked at all of these stations. It was in these assignments that I became familiar with the gang culture that prevails in the area, a culture that has sown more death and misery than I can come close to describing. I can’t possibly count all the murder scenes I went to, to say nothing of the more frequent non-fatal shootings. During my time working in South LA, I responded to at least one shooting every night and at least one murder every week. The utter waste of young life I witnessed continues to haunt me.

And yet Nipsey Hussle, who emerged from this gang culture, embraced it, profited handsomely from it, and ultimately died because of it, is hailed as a hero, even a “ghetto saint” in the words of Michael Eric Dyson, who, one presumes, should be smart enough to know better. Barack Obama sent an admiring letter to Hussle’s family. “I’d never met Nipsey Hussle,” he wrote, “but I’d heard some of his music through my daughters, and after his passing, I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work.”

One wonders if this song was among those Sasha and Malia Obama favored, and what Mr. Obama’s opinion might be of the message it conveys. (Warning: abundant coarse language.)

Let there be no confusion here. Mr. Obama’s sentiments notwithstanding, the only transformation Nipsey Hussle experienced was that of changing from a poor gang member to a rich one, albeit one who invested some small portion of his acquired wealth in a handful of local businesses. He never disavowed his membership in the Rollin’ 60s Neighborhood Crips, on whose hands can be found the blood of hundreds of murder victims. Indeed, in interviews and the lyrics to his music, he continued to boast of his membership in the gang right up until his death.

Local politicians displayed the same lack of moral courage. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, as spineless a man as ever drew breath, joined in the fawning praise, posting a tribute to Hussle on his Facebook page. But even worse than that, and even more insulting to the law-abiding residents of the city, especially those who live in daily fear of the Rollin’ 60 Crips, is the news that the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, near the scene of Hussle’s death, will soon be christened as Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom Square.

And after being so named, we’ll wait to see who has the distinction of being the first person to be murdered there.

On the End of the Weekly Standard (and Other Stuff)


In the small hours of November 9, 2016, when it became clear that the improbable had come to pass, I tweeted out the following question: “Whose hard-core supporters will be harder to live with now, Trump’s or Hillary’s?” Two years on, this remains an open question, one that is all the more pressing in light of recent events.

Wednesday’s mail delivery brought the final issue of The Weekly Standard. This was later than usual, but of course, there’s little use in complaining about it now. (And to whom would I complain?) With this issue came the lame appeal on behalf of the new weekly version of the Washington Examiner, which will fulfill the Standard’s remaining subscription obligations. Whatever the merits of this new magazine, I have declined the offer and await my payment for the balance of my subscription, with which I hope to buy lunch someday.

The shuttering of The Weekly Standard has been welcomed in some quarters, most notably by President Trump, who celebrated the magazine’s demise in a typically graceless tweet. (And who would have expected anything less?) But anyone joining in this celebration in the belief that it marks a Trump triumph over Bill Kristol, one of the magazine’s founders and an unrepentant never-Trumper, are mistaken. A comprehensive post-mortem analysis of the Standard’s waning days was supplied by John Podhoretz in Monday’s Commentary Magazine podcast, and a more succinct version can be found in David Brooks’s Dec. 15 column in the New York Times, but both can be summed up by saying the magazine was killed not because of its opposition to Mr. Trump, but rather for more mundane reasons attendant to the business of conservative opinion journalism.

Whatever the reasons for the death of the Standard, I will miss it. I was a subscriber from the first issue, as its inception came about a few months after my Road to Damascus conversion from liberalism, which itself resulted from a providential discovery of an abandoned copy of National Review at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I did not follow the Standard down the path of never-Trumpism, reasoning at election time that a Trump victory offered at least some hope for the advancement of conservative policies, while a Clinton victory did not. These two years have borne that hope well, and despite my many frustrations with President Trump, I do not regret voting for him. Indeed, given the collection of posers, drama queens, ersatz Indians, and wizened geezers currently touted as potential Democratic rivals, I’m all but certain I’ll vote for him again in 2020.

Again, this doesn’t mean I’m blind to Mr. Trump’s flaws or tolerant of his peculiar behavior. Rather, it means only that when one puts those flaws and behavior alongside Hillary Clinton’s, it’s difficult to determine which of them is the greater scoundrel. And given the choice between two scoundrels, I’ll pick the more conservative one every time. It’s amusing to listen to those who criticize Mr. Trump for his character while extolling Mrs. Clinton, who for decades has served as the moll of as shameless a gaggle of grifters as ever bagged swag.

Returning to the end of The Weekly Standard, it’s a shame that this repository of excellent writing will no longer lend its voice to what is truly the Resistance: the struggle against the advancing tentacles of leftism that for 50 years have been creeping into education, the media, and the culture at large. As noted above, I was once a liberal, having been educated by Jesuits in high school and by secular professors at what is considered an elite university. And I came of age in the Watergate era, when conservatives in general and Republicans, in particular, were publicly shamed. But while stranded at O’Hare late at night with the stores closed and nothing to read, I made that fortuitous discovery of a copy of National Review.

And it was National Review that led me to Commentary, the New Criterion, and, yes, The Weekly Standard, in the pages of which I found so much that had been denied me during what I once believed was a sound education. I have come to believe that if someone graduated from high school and spent the next four years working, even at some menial job, and reading every issue of these magazines, reading the books reviewed or referenced therein, and following the intellectual paths opened by them, at the end of those four years he would be far better educated (and better off financially) than if he had spent those years at any but a tiny handful of colleges.

Sadly, The Weekly Standard is no longer in this fight. Perhaps the Washington Examiner will be a worthy substitute. If they publish Andrew Ferguson, I promise I’ll subscribe.

Burned by a Hot Mic


My most recent piece over at PJ Media concerns a police incident that occurred last April in Roswell, GA, outside Atlanta. Please read the column, but I can summarize it here by saying that a Roswell police officer caught a woman driving recklessly and arrested her, but not before conferring with a colleague about the option of giving the woman a ticket and releasing her.

On an apparent lark, the two officers used a smartphone “coin-toss” app to aid in the decision.  When the app suggested they release the woman, they disregarded it and arrested her anyway.  Dashboard and body camera footage of the incident was leaked to a local news station, which aired it as though it had uncovered a major scandal. In the end, the two involved cops were fired, the reckless driver had her case dismissed, and the chief of the Roswell Police Department went in full grovel mode, hiring an outside consultant to do an assessment of the agency.

In the piece I argue that the firing was excessive, and that the officers deserved no more than a talking-to from their sergeant about being circumspect in their speech when the mics are hot.  You may find it shocking, but there can be a number of factors an officer weighs before deciding to make an arrest and no cop wants the deliberations made public.

It is a given that when an officer encounters someone wanted for a serious crime, that person is going to be arrested under any circumstances. But when the offense is of a minor nature, an officer has discretion in choosing which course of enforcement to take, if any. And the factors the officer weighs don’t always have something to do with the law or department policy. Police officers typically work 8-, 10-, or 12-hour shifts, and as they near the end of a shift an officer begins to consider the possibility of overtime. Some cops may welcome it, hoping for some extra pay or comp time; others, say, those with plans after work or a court appearance the next day, may try to avoid it. So the scofflaw may suffer or catch a break depending on the demands of an officer’s schedule.

And the factors to be weighed may be even more extraneous. A cop might be presented with a minor offender who is sick or injured, the arrest of whom would require a visit to a local hospital. Some cops would go to any lengths to avoid this, but others might be keen on the chance to spend some time with the nurses, especially if the weather is particularly hot or cold. But the last thing any cop wants is to be on video talking about how he made an arrest because he wanted to pass some time out of the weather flirting with the nurses.

As I said in the column, the cops in Roswell got a raw deal, but their downfall should serve as a warning to others. Defense attorneys, the media, and the cop-haters are eager to misconstrue an offhanded comment made during the course of an arrest regardless of how inconsequential it might be. For cops today, every day is The Truman Show.

After Santa Fe Shooting, Houston’s Police Chief Plays Politics


My most recent column over at PJ Media concerns Art Acevedo, chief of the Houston Police Department, who has risen to national attention in the wake of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. The night of the shooting, Acevedo took to Facebook and posted an impassioned plea for “action” from lawmakers to address gun violence. What this action should be he did not specify, neither in the post nor in the many media appearances he has made since, except to call for a law requiring secure storage of firearms when children are present.

Such a law has been on the books in Texas since 1995 (scroll down to section 46.13), so it’s still unclear what recommendations Chief Acevedo would make. What is clear is that he is enjoying his moment in the sun, having been covered in glowing terms by CBS, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone, among many others.

The point of my PJ Media piece was not ridicule Chief Acevedo, but merely to point out that he, as a police chief, does not necessarily speak for his officers when making pronouncements on public policy. Sadly, that is what he has tried to do in a Twitter spat he’s had with the National Rifle Association’s Dana Loesch, during which he claimed to stand with rank-and-file officers on issues related to gun control. Worse, from the perspective of his officers, Acevedo’s tweets at the NRA were embarrassingly sophomoric for a man in his position. (And, for a man in his position, he’s pretty thin-skinned; he has blocked me on Twitter over a very mild challenge to his opinions.)

Remember, there is a vast difference between the political positions of most police chiefs and those of their subordinates, whose experiences have taught them that legislative remedies for atrocities like that which occurred in Santa Fe are a fantasy.

David French vs. Jack Dunphy on the Stephon Clark Shooting


Over at National Review Online this week, I’ve been involved in a polite but pointed debate with David French over the Stephon Clark police shooting in Sacramento.  On March 29, Mr. French wrote a column in which he called the incident “deeply disturbing and problematic.”  Among my objections to Mr. French’s piece was his assertion that police officers consider the “background level of risk” in a situation before deciding on a course of action.  “According to the City of Sacramento,” he wrote, “it’s been almost 20 years since a cop was shot and killed in the line of duty.”

I found it astounding that Mr. French would have that expectation of police officers, and said so in a March 30 post at NRO’s “The Corner.”  Mr. French responded to me in an April 4 piece on NR, to which I replied yesterday.

In criticizing the officers who shot Clark, Mr. French draws on his experience as an Army JAG officer in Iraq, where he sometimes accompanied combat patrols, during which he “experienced tense situations where you didn’t know whether to shoot or hold fire.”

As I make clear in my responses to Mr. French, I have the highest respect for his service in the Army and for his talent as a writer.  But while I respect his service, I don’t believe it necessarily confers on him expertise in civilian law enforcement.  A military patrol, after all, may unexpectedly come under enemy fire, but soldiers do not engage in foot pursuits of lawbreakers whose dangers are not immediately discernible.  But if one is willing to accept that Mr. French’s year in Iraq gives him insight into police work, I ask you give according weight to the 30-plus years I spent with the Los Angeles Police Department.

I won’t rehash the entire debate here, but I invite you to read Mr. French’s pieces and mine, then submit your comments below.  I’m always enlightened by the thoughts of the Ricochet community, and I thank you in advance.  And in case you missed it, our own Robert C.J. Parry (@robertcjparry), who served as an Army infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote his own response to Mr. French’s first column, which you can read here.

Sheriff Israel Has Failed His Department and His Community


Over at PJ Media today, I join the growing chorus of people calling for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to be ousted from his job. It has been revealed that the department he leads failed on many levels, both before and during the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Compounding those failures has been Israel’s preening for the cameras, most obnoxiously at CNN’s town hall, at which students, parents, and teachers from the school gathered to hector Sen. Marco Rubio and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch. Remarkably, Sheriff Israel came to be a crowd favorite, echoing the crowd’s anti-gun sentiments and fueling the passions of the youthful mob.

But now we know a few more details about the shooting and the events that led up to it, such as the many times Broward Sheriff’s deputies had contact with the shooter, and the fact that as many as four deputies waited outside the school as children and school staff members were being shot inside.

Scot Peterson, the now-former sheriff’s deputy, has come in for the bulk of the criticism as it was he who was the assigned “school resource officer” on the campus, and who waited outside as shots rang out. Before I can condemn him, however, I need to know what his department’s policy was regarding responding alone to an “active shooter.”

As I say in the PJ Media piece, until my retirement from the Los Angeles Police Department a few years ago, I was a member of a squad specially trained and equipped to respond to these incidents (there were several such squads stationed around the city). At the time I left the LAPD, the policy was for officers to assemble in groups of at least four, and ideally five, before entering a building under attack. The optimal configuration was a diamond formation consisting of a team leader in the center, with officers on point, on the left and right flanks, and as a rear guard.

It has been my understanding that this practice has been widely adopted by police departments, though some agencies train officers to confront active shooters alone, if necessary. I have not yet heard what the policy of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department is. If Deputy Peterson was following department policy by waiting for backup to arrive, it makes a difference on how harshly we should judge him.

That said, there is a question for every police officer to ask himself: How many gunshots am I willing to listen to, with each shot potentially taking another life, while I adhere to department policy? In the LAPD, officers have been disciplined for acting on their own and not waiting for backup, albeit in circumstances less dire than those at Stoneman Douglas High School. But if, as has been reported, there were other Broward deputies present, all of whom failed to assemble as a team and enter the building, that is an inexcusable breach of an officer’s duty.

I have no doubt there are many dedicated and courageous deputies in the Broward County Sheriff’s Department who only wish they had been in a position to confront the gunman. My fear for them is that their boss, now beleaguered with calls for his head on a spike, will be more concerned with saving his own hide than with leading the department through this crisis. Any internal report on the department’s failures, whatever they may be, will have to be approved by Sheriff Israel – assuming he’s still in office – and should be viewed with that in mind.

As always, I encourage my friends here at Ricochet to read the piece and return here to comment. As time allows, I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

A Year Aboard the Trump Train: A View from the Caboose


A few days before the 2016 presidential election, I posted a piece here on Ricochet titled “The Dismal Choice,” in which I lamented having to choose between two candidates so manifestly deficient in traits I believed essential to the position. But faced with that choice, I voted for Mr. Trump, reasoning that in a Trump presidency there was at least a sliver of a chance that some conservative principles might be advanced, while the alternative offered no such hope. I compared the decision to that facing a driver heading down a mountain road when his brakes fail. He can steer into the mountainside or drive off the cliff, with the former offering certain death and the latter offering a chance, however slight, of surviving the fall.

Now, here we are, 13 months into a Trump administration. I confess to still having the occasional moment of panic when I see a headline or hear a report on the radio and say to myself, “Oh, dear Lord, Donald Trump is President of the United States.” But those moments pass quickly and I say to myself, “Thank you, God, that Hillary Clinton is not President of the United States.”

President Trump’s election has ignited something of a civil war among conservatives, even to the point of disagreement of what makes a person “conservative.” To me, a conservative is one who works to advance conservative principles. The precise definition of which may be somewhat elastic, but if in the fall of 2016 there had been a poll among people who identified as conservatives and they were asked if they would support a candidate who, in his first year in office, would cut taxes, improve military readiness, support law enforcement, appoint originalist judges to the federal courts, slash regulation of business, rout ISIS from its territory, announce the movement of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and get rid of Obamacare’s individual mandate, my guess is that such a candidate would have found wide support.

All of these things and more have come to pass. We have James Mattis heading the Defense Department, Steven Mnuchin at Treasury, Betsy DeVos at Education, and a host of other capable men and women installed in the Cabinet, and while the media work themselves up into a frothing lather about the president’s latest juvenile tweet or ill-considered remark, these people quietly go about the business of making the government work. My favorite on the administration roster is UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, a Jeane Kirkpatrick for our time, who has taken the “kick me” sign off the United States and is unafraid to stand before the assembled kleptocrats and anti-Semites (many of whom would sooner slit their wrists than leave the posh life of Manhattan and return to the hell-holes whence they came) and tell them where they can shove it.

I don’t watch as much news or listen to as much talk radio as I once did, having adopted the policy of ignoring anyone who has nothing good to say about President Trump as well as anyone who has nothing bad to say about him. This policy excludes all of the cable news networks, all of which have shamed themselves to varying degrees. I don’t miss them in the least, and I now have more time to spend on other, more productive pursuits.

If you’ll indulge another transportation analogy, the last year reminds me of my first visit to New York in 1985. I was a young cop and my finances were lean, as were those of the friends whom I had come to visit. Our mode of transportation about town was the subway, which was loud, uncomfortable, and which brought us into close association with some people we sooner would have avoided. But it always delivered us to the place we wanted to go, more or less on schedule. As my friends came to enjoy financial success (more than that enjoyed by a cop), on later visits I was sometimes treated to a ride with a car service, which was quiet, smooth, and isolated from the hoi polloi packed into the trains down there on the subway.

I suspect that a Hillary Clinton presidency would have been like a ride with a car service. The media, today so keenly attuned to any perceived misstep from President Trump or anyone close to him, would have continued in the torpor they enjoyed for the previous eight years, and we would have been continually reassured that the ride was quiet and smooth as we sped along toward downtown – when what we wanted was to go uptown. As it is, we are down on the subway with all the noise, the stench, and the people whose company is sometimes difficult to enjoy.

But we’re going in the right direction, and isn’t that what matters?

A Few Words About the Nunez Memo


With apologies once again for a prolonged absence, I return to our little island of the Internet, an island of calm and reasoned debate surrounded by a frothing maelstrom of invective and ignorance.  I call your attention to my most recent contribution over at PJ Media, in which I discuss the troubling implications raised by the Nunez Memo.

Please read the whole thing, but I can summarize the piece here by saying it seems to me that Christopher Steele “played” his handlers at the FBI, whose willingness, even eagerness, to believe the worst about Donald Trump blinded them to what should have been obvious defects in the information Steele was providing.

I regret that I neglected to say in the column that I, unlike some who have opined on the matter, have not lost all faith in the FBI, some of whose members I have worked with and know personally.  The FBI remains an outstanding law enforcement agency, albeit one whose leadership may have allowed their personal opinions of Donald Trump to cloud their judgment.

The comments section over at PJ Media devolved into a sadly typical frenzy of baseless allegations and ad hominem attacks, some of which cause one to wonder if the commenters had bothered to read piece.  Which is why I turn to you, my fellow Ricochetti, to restore my faith in mankind (or personkind, as Justin Trudeau would have it).  As always, I look forward to your thoughtful commentary.

Dueling Losers in Charlottesville


My most recent contribution over at PJ Media concerns, as you might expect, the recent events in Charlottesville, specifically the apparent failure of the police to prepare for and respond to the violence they should have known was coming. In that piece I recount a memory of my youth (it was in or about 1970) in which I witnessed the LAPD deal very effectively with a group of neo-Nazis who appeared intent on disrupting a large demonstration against the Vietnam war. A sample:

After an awkward standoff of a few minutes, the Nazis began marching east on Wilshire, with the cops marching right alongside. Upon reaching the east end of the park, at Alvarado Street, the Nazis turned around and marched back to Park View, again matched step for step by the same 50 cops.

This was repeated a few times, with the effect being that of a rehearsal for some sort of bizarre parade. Through it all the leader of the Nazis was shouting through a bullhorn, and the entire rabble was free to carry on as they wished, but they weren’t going to be allowed into the park and stir things up.

The analogy between that long-ago event in Los Angeles and the debacle in Charlottesville is, while instructive, not entirely apt. In Los Angeles, the Nazis arrived at an anti-war demonstration that had been sanctioned by the local authorities and facilitated by the LAPD, to the extent that one of the city’s busiest streets was shut down for hours. In other words, it was the Nazis who attempted to disrupt a lawful protest.

In Charlottesville, it was the Nazis and their fellow travelers who had secured all the necessary permissions for their rally, and it was the AntiFa/BLM/SJW crowd who massed to disrupt it. From a police perspective, the avowed beliefs of either side is (or should be) irrelevant. The only questions to be asked are, Who is obeying the law, and who is interfering with the exercise of a constitutionally protected right? After watching abundant video on what happened, it’s apparent that one side came prepared for a fight, but the other side came looking for one.

Disinclined as I am even to appear supportive of the rabble marching under swastika flags, I must do so to defend the underlying principle that even loathsome people have the right to express loathsome opinions. It is a police officer’s duty to uphold that principle by enforcing the law, even if doing so benefits people he may find repugnant.

And, lest it be forgotten, there was abundant repugnance on both sides in Charlottesville last Saturday. Yes, as revealed by Vice News, the Nazis (or white nationalists, or white supremacists, or whatever) are some of the most cretinous people you’ll ever come across. But check out some of the leftist charmers who descended on Charlottesville to bestow their wisdom on the local rustics (relevant portion begins at about 2:00; warning: you may long be haunted by the image of one woman in particular). I’m reminded of what Henry Kissinger reportedly said of the war between Iran and Iraq: “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.”

The President and the Police


I have a new column up today over at PJ Media, in which I reject the criticisms of President Trump’s recent speech to police officers in Brentwood, New York. A sample:

In the course of that speech, the president made an unscripted aside in which he made light of police officers being “rough” with people arrested for violent crimes. Borrowing from comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Mr. Trump admonished his audience not to worry about someone arrested for murder hitting his head while getting into a police car. The cops in attendance laughed and applauded, as did I and most cops who watched the speech.

The reaction among the bien pensant crowd was all too predictable. USA Today ran a finger-wagging story under the headline, “Police after Trump speech: We don’t tolerate ‘roughing up’ prisoners.” In New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere police brass jumped in line to condemn the speech and by extension the president himself.

The USA Today headline is misleading in its use of the word “police,” implying that most cops took a dim view of the president’s remarks. This simply isn’t so, and it illustrates the divide that exists between rank-and-file cops, i.e., those men and women out on the streets doing what cops must do, and their bosses high in the chain of command.

The higher one goes on the promotional ladder in any police department, the more removed one becomes from actual police work. For police chiefs, and those aspiring to become one, concerns about the grit and tumult of police work are forgotten in favor of political considerations, which most often involve adopting the beliefs (or pretending to) of their city’s reigning political establishment. And in any city you could name, the political establishment regards President Trump — and those so debased as to have voted for him — as anathema.

Contrary to the claims of his critics, the president’s speech was not an endorsement of excessive force by the police. There is a simple reason Mr. Trump’s remarks were so warmly received by police officers, as I explain in my column:

Later in the speech, the president said, “We have your backs one hundred percent. Not like the old days.”

And there you had it. Far from applauding a presidential license for abuse, those cops in Brentwood, indeed cops everywhere in the country, were applauding a man who, unlike his predecessor, appreciates their work and is willing to express his gratitude for it publicly and without qualification. And what a welcome change that is from the Obama years.

As always, I look forward to the commentary from my friends in the Ricochetti.

Jack Dunphy

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