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[Police brutality] American injustice, yet again.


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I'm not going to try to get into an argument on this.  I'm just going to state things as I see them.  It will be kinda long.  I am a defense attorney and was a public defender for nearly a decade.  So

I'm glad we have a police viewpoint in here.  One of the scoutmasters in our troop is a long time cop, and he has the best stories.  He's also apologetic for the bad apples and "bad shoots" that we us

My point is that it shouldn't matter if the boys in blue are chatting up Beelzebub out for a Sunday stroll; the actions of the person being questioned/stopped are what ought to matter. Putting that as

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15 minutes ago, Ranxerox said:

 

"These gentlemen in the white robes and pointy hats are witnesses.  They said he hung himself, right after he beat himself and tied his hands behind his back.  Obviously, a suicide."

 

(Though for the latest one they cited security video, which depending on what exactly that showed may make me less suspicious.  But for the first three, yeah, color me cynical about rulings of suicide.)

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This doesn't track. Suicides don't hang themselves out in the open, if they have a choice. Killing yourself out of despair is a deeply intimate act, done in private. On top of that, for a black person, hanging from a tree carries far too much negative history for them to choose it as a way to end their lives.

 

That's the choice of other people who want to make a spectator sport out of it.

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7 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

This doesn't track. Suicides don't hang themselves out in the open, if they have a choice. Killing yourself out of despair is a deeply intimate act, done in private. On top of that, for a black person, hanging from a tree carries far too much negative history for them to choose it as a way to end their lives.

 

That's the choice of other people who want to make a spectator sport out of it.

 

My thoughts exactly.  I am curious about the fourth one - they mentioned security video.  If it actually shows the person hanging himself, then no question.  But if the camera doesn't cover the actual hanging location and is just used to say, "We didn't see anybody else enter or leave the area," then I'm not sold on it being suicide, since cameras coverage is probably not absolute.

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UNLV's mascot has been included in the statue removals:

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/hey-reb-statue-removed-university-nevada-las-vegas-mascot-under-n1231273

 

"Hey Reb" was the less insensitive school mascot, and replaced Beauregard T. Wolf, the University of Nevada Southern* answer to UNR's Wolfpack.

 

 

 

*The original name of the school.

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I mentioned this before I think, but without reference.  I heard they had evidence of this years ago, but couldn't track down where I heard it from.  I found a reference now:
 

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8xvzwp/baltimore-cops-carried-toy-guns-to-plant-on-people-they-shot-trial-reveals-vgtrn?fbclid=IwAR3ZUf853YkkaxiJplPRLZIT5VqdhsxihazDZM0rXWsGtGzgfXR6IwPoQdk

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On 6/15/2020 at 9:09 PM, megaplayboy said:

They could have just taken his keys and let him walk to his sister's home.  No custodial arrest necessary.  

 

I'm a defense lawyer and 90% of my practice right now are DUI arrests.  They never ever take someone's keys and let them walk home.  I've had clients arrested after they pulled into their own driveways.  Regardless of your feelings on this particular case, they don't do that for anybody, white or black.

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1 minute ago, Sociotard said:

 

A lot of people ran in to try and help the officer it seems.  So that one person is an asshole and instigator.

 

Mexico has problems, up to and including the cartel sending people out to machine gun innocent civilians when they tried to arrest the son of the last boss.

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1 hour ago, massey said:

 

I'm a defense lawyer and 90% of my practice right now are DUI arrests.  They never ever take someone's keys and let them walk home.  I've had clients arrested after they pulled into their own driveways.  Regardless of your feelings on this particular case, they don't do that for anybody, white or black.

 

Back in the early 1980s, we had a family friend who left a bar, sat in his truck and turned the ignition on, then turned it off. The officer arrested him for DUI, even though he hadn't moved the car. 

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Just now, Ternaugh said:

 

Back in the early 1980s, we had a family friend who left a bar, sat in his truck and turned the ignition on, then turned it off. The officer arrested him for DUI, even though he hadn't moved the car. 

 

I have like twenty clients like that right now.  Actual Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle.

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I'm not going to try to get into an argument on this.  I'm just going to state things as I see them.  It will be kinda long.  I am a defense attorney and was a public defender for nearly a decade.  Some of this will probably offend some people here.  So be it.  I believe everyone here has the same general good goals and none of us are trying to be irrational or hateful.

 

 

 

This is, at the same time, both a massive problem within our justice system and also a fairly minor one.  In a country of 1/3 of a billion people, about 1000 people a year are shot and killed by the police.  Of those, about 10% are reported to be unarmed.  Some percentage of the unarmed people are either fleeing or attempting to commit suicide by cop (however I was unable to find those numbers).. A large number of them are also mentally ill (so they do unexpected things).  Approximately 40% of the unarmed people who are killed by police are black (mostly young males).  About 13% of the US population is black, but they make up a disproportionate share of all inmates in US prisons (accurate numbers are difficult to find quickly on this topic -- I've seen statistics anywhere from 1/3 to more than half, these numbers also appear to be going down).  For raw population numbers, unarmed black people are killed at a rate 3 times what we would expect.  But compared to how likely they are to be arrested by police, the numbers are much closer (this of course, makes us ask whether black people are unfairly targeted by police in the first place).  However this does mean that police do not appear to be more likely to shoot black people in any given encounter (i.e., per contact).

 

Any stance of "even one person being wrongfully killed is unacceptable" doesn't work for me.  Mistakes happen.  Accidents happen.  Outright murders happen.  We want to minimize these of course, but as TrickstaPriest said above with the person who set a cop on fire in Mexico, "that one person is an asshole and an instigator".  Police departments in the United States are local.  They vary from massive organizations like the NYPD and LAPD, down to small towns with two part time cops.  You cannot have such a dispersed system and also guarantee against one person being "an asshole and an instigator".  You cannot say that the entire justice system failed just because Officer Hardass decided to put a bullet in somebody.  Single digit incidents across a country of 330 million people are not a sign of a manifestly unjust system.

 

It's also possible for rational people to disagree on individual police shootings.  I have not seen the video of the guy who got shot in the back after he stole the cop's taser, but I've talked to several people who have.  Everybody seemed to have their own opinion on it.  I've seen police shooting videos where I thought the officer should be prosecuted immediately, and other people say "nah, it's fine".  And I've seen others where I thought it was perfectly justified (or at least understandable) and the cop gets arrested.  People are going to see things differently.

 

However, all that said, there are serious problems within our justice system.  We need to change these things.  Some of these are going to be extremely difficult to fix, and right now nobody is talking about many of them.  Some of them would be easy to fix, but nobody is lifting a finger to do what is necessary.

 

--Police unions have far too much power and influence.  In my state, when an officer shoots a suspect he is not questioned about it until days later when he's had a chance to consult with his union rep and an attorney.  That's part of their contract (source: a buddy of mine who is an ex-cop).  Bad cops get rehired or are never fired in the first place because of union contracts.  Even when something is "makes national news" bad, the unions are reluctant to go against their officers.

 

--There is a political problem within the Democratic Party right now.  African Americans vote Democrat about 90% of the time, but police unions are also major contributors to Democratic politicians.  Taking on the unions is a career killer for local Democrat politicians.  Republican politicians have no real incentive to take action (though they try to combat public sector unions on general principle, it's not Republicans who are getting shot), and Democratic politicians are paralyzed.  Two of their largest voting blocks are in opposition to each other here.

 

--Cops aren't tested for steroids.  This is a major problem, it's obvious, and no one has ever mentioned it.  I've seen these guys in the courtroom.  Everybody knows who they are.  They're clearly juicing and everyone knows it.  Yet cops aren't drug tested, and they certainly aren't tested for steroids.  I'd say at least 10% of cops are juicing.  Now don't get me wrong -- I was once in a room with a client who was one big mean son of a bitch, he got mad at me and jumped out of his chair at me.  I was very happy to see Officer Zangief (clearly taking some "Vitamin S") come in and smash that sucker into the wall.  Cops deal with dangerous people, that's why so many of them take steroids.  But we need to start doing something about it.

 

--No one is keeping track of bad cops.  Social media companies, instead of doing something useless like saying "we support BLM", could actually do something helpful.  It would be trivially easy for Facebook or Google or another company that already mines our data to create an algorithm that scans news reports for instances of police violence and assembles a database.  When somebody tweets out "my cousin Ricky got shot by the police", people should be collecting that.  When a cop gets fired for illegal use of force, that should follow him.  As it is, it's too easy for him to go to a different department and get hired there.  But if a report was widely available, and you could see this guy had already shot 3 people and had 15 complaints against him?  A lot less bad cops would get rehired.

 

--Police are not trained enough in de-escalation.  They're not trained enough, period.  But they're especially not trained in de-escalation.  Every cop who goes through the academy should know how to approach a suspect who is not actively resisting and talk to him in such a way that they don't start actively resisting.  Too many cops go to violent confrontation too quickly.  This is a problem that can be fixed, but it doesn't get fixed by spending less money.

 

--Local prosecutors have very close relationships with the police.  Prosecutors are friends with cops.  They marry cops.  They work with cops every day.  It's hard to file charges against a guy who came to your cookout a month ago.  Last week you were asking him how his wife and new baby are doing, this week you're trying to decide if it was okay for him to shoot a guy who had been to prison three times.  In most circumstances, the cop gets the benefit of the doubt.  Federal prosecutors need to take a much more active role in reviewing state police shootings.  This is something the President can order at any time (yes, Trump could have already done it, but so could have Obama).  Again, it's politically costly.  In some states, apparently DAs have to present charges against officers to a grand jury.  This is a total cop-out, when they say "the grand jury cleared the officer", because grand juries only see the evidence the DA presents.  It's easy to softball it and intentionally fail to present enough evidence.  Federal prosecutors and state AGs should review every single shooting that is even remotely questionable.

 

--There are, in fact, some racist policies in use when it comes to law enforcement.  I once had a case where a dozen police officers pulled up to a run down apartment building and jumped out, guns drawn.  They rushed forward like they were conducting a raid.  They didn't have any specific information about a crime being committed, they were simply flushing out anybody who ran.  Of course my client and several others saw the cops coming and bolted.  Fleeing from the police gives them probable cause to stop you, so 10 seconds later my client gets tackled and of course he's got a bunch of drugs on him and a gun.  The problem is that my client was a total scumbag who had been to prison multiple times, so the judge was not interested in my argument that the police department's actions were unfair.  Of course they don't do this in neighborhoods where dentists and accountants live.  They only do it in high crime (i.e., black) neighborhoods.  To put a stop to this, you're going to need groups like the ACLU or other well funded organizations to actually look at every arrest in a given city, look for disparate policing policies, and then sue them in federal court.  But that's a lot of work, and nobody wants to do it.

 

 

 

All that said, there are problems in the black community as well.

 

--Young black men have a skewed perception of how likely they are to get shot.  The actual chances of getting shot are incredibly low, but I've seen tons of videos of black men talking about how afraid they are when they are pulled over.  I understand why they are (the same reason I don't want to swim in the ocean -- JAWS will get me).  But this perception is not accurate.  It also makes them more likely to panic and resist arrest.  And that makes cops more nervous and more likely to use force.  I've read several articles and facebook posts written by black people talking about how they had done nothing wrong, but they were so worried that they almost ran anyway.  We've got to publicize that it's actually exceedingly rare for an unarmed person of any race to get shot.

 

--While there are issues with a disparity in justice (black men prosecuted more harshly than white men), there's also a real problem in that a small number of young black men commit a very large percentage of the crime.  I once represented a client who said you weren't considered "a man" in his family until you did a 20 year prison sentence.  That's heartbreaking but it's true.  It isn't racially discriminatory policing that is locking many of these guys up (that guy did a home invasion robbery on Christmas and pointed a gun with a laser sight at a baby).  Many times an innocent person is stopped because he "matched a description of a suspect".  But I don't think the cops are always lying when they say that.  Frequently they are investigating a real crime, and the only description they have is "black male, average height, wearing a dark jacket".

 

--There's also a fairly high tolerance for "victimless crimes" in poor African American communities.  Driving without insurance?  Driving while a tail light is burned out?  Not using your turn signal?  Not wearing your seat belt?  "That's not even really a crime, man."  I actually had a client say that.  Combine that with a tendency to not pay tickets and you get suspended driver's licenses and arrest warrants.  A huge percentage of my public defender clients got pulled over for some dumb traffic violation, the officer finds out they have a warrant because they didn't show up for court on the previous dumb traffic ticket, he goes to arrest them and then they would do something stupid (like run).  And of course then there's something illegal in the car.  I would suspect the cop of being a lying racist jerk, and I'd ask my client about it and he'd say "aww, hell no man I never use my turn signal..."  Well, shit.

 

 

 

Nobody is going to listen to any of my suggestions on how to fix any of this, and my post has gone on too long anyway.  In real life I've remained quiet on this, it's too radioactive to touch, especially since I know a lot of cops and judges and prosecutors (many of whom are black).  But I figured I'd try to offer my perspective on these problems.

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Massey, I do thank you for your input on this subject. It's enormously helpful to hear first-hand experience of how the system functions, and the practical issues you've seen that influence the outcomes we've all been concerned about. I think a number of your suggestions sound very reasonable and helpful, and I will remember what you brought up for any future discussions of the subject I get into. :hail:

 

However, I would like to underline another factor I believe is fueling the intensity of these protests, one that it's hard to relate to unless you have some personal experience of it -- the effect of manifestations of systemic bias in the police, and in the broader white society, toward black people. The automatic suspicion with which black people are treated by white police, the driving pullovers, the questioning, the demands for identification, from no other apparent cause than being black. The stigmatization, the offensive manner with which they're approached, the many ways a double standard is demonstrated. Black people of every socio-economic class relate stories of being treated that way, time after time, all their lives.

 

As I've mentioned elsewhere on these forums, I grew up in a time and place where I, even as a white male, experienced a small taste of what that's like, so I think I respond to remarks like those with more sympathy (as distinct from empathy) than most of my ethnicity. I grasp the effect of constantly being told or shown, in some big but many more subtle ways, that you're different, what you are makes you less, you deserve however you're treated, you're never going to be accepted no matter what you do. It's like the Chinese water torture, constantly drip, drip, dripping on your head, wearing you down, undercutting your self-esteem, filling you with anger and resentment and frustration, making it hard to hope for something better, provoking fear whenever you have to deal with authority. It makes you want to either give up, or explode. In the current situation the effects of that attitude are like piled-up dry kindling that were just waiting for a spark.

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4 hours ago, massey said:

 

I'm a defense lawyer and 90% of my practice right now are DUI arrests.  They never ever take someone's keys and let them walk home.  I've had clients arrested after they pulled into their own driveways.  Regardless of your feelings on this particular case, they don't do that for anybody, white or black.

It's almost as if they have a quota or something.  

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4 hours ago, massey said:

Any stance of "even one person being wrongfully killed is unacceptable" doesn't work for me.  Mistakes happen.  Accidents happen.  Outright murders happen.  We want to minimize these of course, but as TrickstaPriest said above with the person who set a cop on fire in Mexico, "that one person is an asshole and an instigator".  Police departments in the United States are local.  They vary from massive organizations like the NYPD and LAPD, down to small towns with two part time cops.  You cannot have such a dispersed system and also guarantee against one person being "an asshole and an instigator".  You cannot say that the entire justice system failed just because Officer Hardass decided to put a bullet in somebody.  Single digit incidents across a country of 330 million people are not a sign of a manifestly unjust system.

 

I think you are underestimating just how bad the optics are on a statement like this; for a police officer in an administrative role or a politician, publicly announcing this (even with all the other concessions you made later on) is almost assuredly career suicide. Furthermore, even if the chances of being wrongfully killed are statistically small, you're going to see the most disproportionately affected populations keep their guard up and advocate avoidance (yes, even to the potential detriment of their safety). That is the nature of the beast you must - no, we must - grapple with.

 

Just look at COVID-19. While it is now becoming clear that its broader effects are worse than previously anticipated, there was a time when a select percentage of our nation's populace basically claimed that (heavy paraphrasing incoming!) "Other causes of death are more likely; why don't you care as much about heart disease or automobile accidents?". While this is true in the aggregate, I can't imagine a society that reacts to a pandemic with "Listen, your chances of dying from this new virus are statistically insignificant. We're not going to close down the country for this any more than we would close it down for cancer or diabetes." as one that values the importance of community or, well, life in general.

 

We accept a degree of "inefficiency" (i.e., addressing the fears of the people) because we recognize that humans aren't robots.

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The thing is, police killings are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problematic behavior by LEOs.  For every officer involved killing(and there's closer to 1500 from all causes than 1000, which blows away the rest of the developed world in per capita rate), there's an order of magnitude(or two) more instances of excessive force, and an even greater number of instances of harassment and/or over-enforcement of laws(we don't really need to cite every minor traffic violation, it's done to generate revenue for the jurisdiction).  And the cumulative effect of this misconduct and abuse of authority is that communities of color, particularly struggling communities, feel as though they are being held down by an occupying army of sorts.  It's hard to instill respect for rule of law when the law never seems to redound to your benefit.  

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2 hours ago, massey said:

--There's also a fairly high tolerance for "victimless crimes" in poor African American communities.  Driving without insurance?  Driving while a tail light is burned out?  Not using your turn signal?  Not wearing your seat belt?  "That's not even really a crime, man."  I actually had a client say that.  Combine that with a tendency to not pay tickets and you get suspended driver's licenses and arrest warrants.  A huge percentage of my public defender clients got pulled over for some dumb traffic violation, the officer finds out they have a warrant because they didn't show up for court on the previous dumb traffic ticket, he goes to arrest them and then they would do something stupid (like run).  And of course then there's something illegal in the car.  I would suspect the cop of being a lying racist jerk, and I'd ask my client about it and he'd say "aww, hell no man I never use my turn signal..."  Well, shit.

 

Nobody is going to listen to any of my suggestions on how to fix any of this, and my post has gone on too long anyway.  In real life I've remained quiet on this, it's too radioactive to touch, especially since I know a lot of cops and judges and prosecutors (many of whom are black).  But I figured I'd try to offer my perspective on these problems.

 

Great post man.  Simply great.

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This will blow over and we'll shove the issue under the rug until the next incident. I have little hope of any real change...certainly not in my lifetime. The socio economic system in place is just too entrenched at this point. America's issues are far FAR beyond police brutality and we all know it, but admitting those problems would be admitting that there's a problem at the very core of American society and it's clear enough that people aren't ready for that reality yet. It's sad really...

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Well, most people thought the #metoo movement would fade away, but it doesn't show any signs of that, and we have seen a fundamental shift in how sexual harassment of women is being treated in North American society. So it's not impossible that systemic change of some sort could come from this too. Everything wrong in a society won't resolve at once, short of a violent revolution (which rarely changes things for the better). Yet over my own lifetime I've seen profound evolution in society; but most of those steps were incremental. Wars are won one battle at a time.

 

However, I believe the police culture in North America today, and the reaction to it by the public, is being fueled by fear. "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate." If we can address that culture of fear, many better things should follow naturally.

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16 hours ago, massey said:

 

 

--Cops aren't tested for steroids.  This is a major problem, it's obvious, and no one has ever mentioned it.  I've seen these guys in the courtroom.  Everybody knows who they are.  They're clearly juicing and everyone knows it.  Yet cops aren't drug tested, and they certainly aren't tested for steroids.  I'd say at least 10% of cops are juicing.  Now don't get me wrong -- I was once in a room with a client who was one big mean son of a bitch, he got mad at me and jumped out of his chair at me.  I was very happy to see Officer Zangief (clearly taking some "Vitamin S") come in and smash that sucker into the wall.  Cops deal with dangerous people, that's why so many of them take steroids.  But we need to start doing something about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First , thanks for the entire post. It was pretty insightful  over all, but this part is the ONE area I was like "I did not know ANY of this part" . Given how some folks get ..kind of aggressive when on steroids (at least types) I can see why this complicates things.

 

So you may think no one is reading your wall of text, but, well, I learned something today.

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