I really don’t have anything to say. But I can quote.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Nonviolence as Compliance“:
Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?
The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.
It has been 15 days since Freddie Gray was stuffed into a Baltimore Police Department van and no officer, elected official or agency has taken any responsibility for his subsequent death or the policies that allow it to stand.
Therefore, we continue to witness the further erosion of the already broken relationship between Black communities and law enforcement.
The truth is that our region’s elected officials have not seen it as politically useful to act on the long-standing issues of police violence in Black communities. What we are witnessing today is the crossing of a tipping point by communities that have remained unheard for far too long.
Baltimore United For Change is fundraising for Legal/Bail Support for Baltimore protestors. If you support the protests, I would think that even a small donation would help.
And another writer (pdf):
America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.
And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.
Harlequin: “Boy, do I wish I hadn’t said anything.”
Yup. (not faulting you for saying what you said, just disgusted and irritated with all the “see no racism” bullshit that it brought out from other quarters).
[edited to remove everything else, you know what, I’m not even going to engage with this ahistorical see-no-racism bullshit]
1. Mass arrests for minor crimes, like loitering and littering. Or, to go by some recent events, selling cigarettes (suspect dead), jaywalking (suspect dead) broken taillight (suspect dead), playing with a (toy) gun (suspect dead). Where are we? Singapore?
2. Police financially incentivized to issue tickets for minor offenses.
3. The 4th amendment, or systemic violation of. Example: Stop and Frisk. I’ll put Freddie Gray here since he appears to have been arrested for committing no crime whatsoever.
4. The Fair Housing Act, or lack of enforcement of. This is a wildly complex and convoluted issue, so it may bear some explanation. Short Answer: Government policy lead to Blacks being segregated in the very neighborhoods now being policed like Singapore. And I’m talking post-1968 (date of the Fair Housing Act) not just Jim Crow.
Anyway, those are the issues of which Coates speaks. Let me know which one you find unbelievable.
Well, if demand for the space is low, then so is the rent.
You would explain to the BOD that those are “soft” issues. The hard issue is the bottom line. Then you’d run the numbers with the lower rent space (minus increased insurance cost, tho big-biz may choose to go w/o insurance) and see what it does to the bottom line.
Nope. Boxstores thrive in communities with high unemployment rates and low median incomes. They more than willing to fill their ledgers with red for years at a time, losing money on every sale, if they can drive out small businesses and make their own minimum wage, part-time workers dependent on them for basic goods. Being the only game in town puts one in a remarkably enviable position. It’s not the threat of riots or arson that puts their backs up; it’s organized labor. And apparently Wal-mart has devised a neat little solution for that stumbling block in the form of “plumbing problems” too mysterious and costly to describe or repair or prove, problems not reported to any city official or code enforcement officer, problems that apparently require nothing more than the selling off remaining stock and then abruptly shuttering for months at a time with no notice.
Boxstores happily colonize communities that have been damaged by violence, sub-prime loans, loss of industry, and middle-class emigration, where they can gobble up cheap real estate and then avoid paying property taxes.
Problem is, “effective policing” turns out to be really hard to do, once communities are in enough trouble.
Because policing is often based on disincentives, i.e. arrest, fines, or jail. And when you don’t have a ton to lose, or any especially good options which can be taken away-which is a fair characteristic of many poor uneducated people-then the disincentive effects of policing tend to go by the wayside. That requires either a step up in enforcement for smaller things (broken windows theory) or a metric ton of police (which increases exposure, and therefore increases arrests,) and so on.
It’s a nearly-impossible problem to solve externally, because every normal solution produces at least one major issue which people then get angry about. The reason that people are talking about what the black community can do for itself is that most communities which have improved are driven from the inside, not the outside.
For example, it’s widely agreed that Baltimore schools suck, and it’s widely agreed that shitty schools drag a community down. But they are funded quite well. Questions like “how do you provide education to kids in a situation where lots of parents are uneducated, so they don’t support the kids well?” or “how do you efficiently teach the motivated kids unless you have the ability to suspend disruptive kids?” are plaguing school districts across the country. When they get solved it usually comes from somewhere OUTSIDE the school system.
Hm. I see where you would think that. I meant to reference the pastor and the other rioters, not the entire black community, but in haste to finish the posting wrote overbroadly and you are correct in calling me out on that. Indeed, and as we have seen in Baltimore, the majority of the people in that community, angry or not, did not wish to see it burned down. But the pastor and his ilk – the ones who actually did physically destroy the community – destroyed it in other ways as well and must bear responsibility for it’s subsequent course.
I don’t recall using the word “modest”. I do a pretty good job of putting the wrong words in my mouth on occasion, I don’t need any help from you in that regard. Modest? I doubt it. Affordable? Probably just barely – and then when a neighborhood gets burned out by rioters they are likely pushed over the line to “unaffordable”. Big box stores may be able to afford moving in without insurance, but a small business can’t – the owner’s entire savings, property, etc. is very likely on the line.
BTW, I’m thinking more of the small sole-proprietor businesses; e.g., beauty parlor, dry cleaner, etc. I don’t know if CVS owns their stores and just hires in management and workers or if it’s a franchise deal, but somehow a CVS store doesn’t strike me as a small business. OTOH, it provides an essential service and I should think that having to travel miles for a prescription is a reason to move out of a neighborhood for those who can afford to do so.
This is a little ahistorical, at least as far as post-riot neighborhoods go. In most cities, box stores came to formerly once crime had come down to the point at which the threats of violence and disorder had been reduced. The Targets and the Wal Marts of the world were not seeking to make wage slaves of the inner-city masses when crack was running rampant. It has only been since investors and management started believing that arson and looting were less likely that they started showing interest.
The U Street Corridor in D.C. was one of the centers of the enormous Washington, DC riot following the assassination of MLKjr, but looks quite nice today; the government building a new metro center is credited with reviving the neighborhood’s economy.
It is without a doubt true that riots are bad for a neighborhood’s economic prospects. It is also the case that neighborhoods can recover, and that government investment in a neighborhood, while by no means easy, can make a big difference.
Did people read Charles’ link? There are things we can do to improve policing and address police violence. But it requires a public demand and pressure, because the police forces that are creating the most trouble won’t reform without extreme pressure.
I don’t get why no one ever points out that the 21 foot rule is based on drawing, aiming, then firing, versus a suddenly charging attacker. Which means that you could, uh, draw, aim, then NOT fire? What’s the safe distance for an officer with a readied weapon?
My understanding is that, unless their model has changed (or if they operate in different ways in different parts of the country) but they are all corporate stores (no franchises) and they will often own the land (a quick survey of two stores near me showed that they appear to own the land in one, but not the other).
So, if they own the land in Baltimore, there is little disincentive to re-opening. The land may be of little value now; selling it off is not a good option. And, given that they were likely insured, they will have the money to re-build.
FWIW, Reeves municipal building was built in 1986 and U Street was a violent mess for 15 years. The Metro helped, as did the fact that it was adjacent to wealthier white neighborhoods. In fact, the neighborhood became appealing once half the neighborhood had emptied, leaving room for rich whites to come in. This is an interesting history of that transition:
We don’t have an endless supply of rich white people to fill up the abandoned rowhouses of Winchester- Sandtown, not to mention the fact that doing so would miss the point entirely.
There are certainly people who will invest in communities. There are fewer of them who will do it under current limitations.
Pre-riots, if that CVS was charging more for prescriptions than a CVS in a different neighborhood, would you have chimed in supportively when a SJW claimed the cost differential was racist?
Pre-riots, if someone decided to develop in that area by buying up a few buildings, evicting the tenants, and building some stuff that they considered economically viable, would you have joined in protesting when a small group of local citizens complained?
Pre-riots, if it improved enough so that a bunch of rich/educated people started moving to the area and started changing the community, opening ramen shops and J. Crew outlets, paying more money for rent, and such, would you have joined the folks protesting gentrification?
Pre-riots, if they tried to fix the school system by identifying and suspending/disciplining the worst 10% of students–who contribute the vast majority of problems–would you have been one of the folks who opposed it? If they pulled out the top “best and brightest,” and bussed them elsewhere, thus reducing the overall quality of the school system for those left behind, would you have thought it was OK? What about NCLB?
Pre-riots, would you have supported a big bump in the minimum wage–let’s say, to $15/hour–and would you have considered whether any currently-jobless residents of that community would actually be able to convince employers that they were worth hiring for $15/hour?
Pre-rioting, if there were any attempts to specifically focus on the poor black community other than by giving them things–let’s say, a focus on teaching non-violence, or perhaps an attempt to reduce out-of-wedlock births by providing free birth control and abortions, or by sending in more police to reduce overall crime–would you have called those racist and improper?
Personally: Yes, I think I might have joined in a few of those things. But when this happens and I look in the mirror, I wonder whether those would have been the right call.
Patrick, could you provide some more context for your comment? I know a lot about the Tueller drill, theory and application, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this observation.
Some general info:
I’m a pretty fast draw (though not the fastest I know.) On those rare occasions that I demo the Tueller drill with 10 students, there’s usually one who can pass my position before we hear the [i]click[/i] from the training gun. Does that mean that 21 feet is a safe distance 90% of the time? It does not, for many reasons.
First, in the Tueller drill you know exactly what’s going to happen, and exactly how you’re going to react. Simple stimulus, simple reaction. So your reaction time is much, much faster than it is for a complex stimulus leading to a whole complex of possible reactions, which is the actual situation in a sudden surprise aggression.
Second, shots can be fatal without being immediate stops, and fatal shots are usually not immediate stops. unless my bullet transits the attacker’s upper spine or lower brain, which is very unlikely, the attacker will still have at least a few seconds to carry through. Even if my bullet does go right through the medulla oblongata, rendering the body incapable of further intentional movement, I’m still probably taking one stab from the knife. Even if I shoot him in the heart, he’s got a few seconds with that knife. I’m not an expert knife fighter, but I’m a little better than amateur, and if I’m going all-out, I can slash you 2-3 times per second with a knife.
Google |knife slash wounds| to see the possible results. DO NOT DO THIS if you cannot stomach the results. (And I strongly suggest that you never pass judgement on a use of force if you can’t stomach the results of that search. Results like those are inseparable from the topic under discussion.)
Third, another person may not be as quick out of the holster as I am. I’ve seen a guy on crutches cross 21 feet in under 1.5 seconds. Not sure how he did it, but in the class in question, every student was timed, and that guy happened to be on crutches. As I recall, out of a class of about twenty people, mostly men, ranging in age from 21 to 60, ranging widely in fitness, only one student was unable to cross 21 feet in 1.5 seconds.
I could go on. The point is, although the 21-foot distance has been taught as a magic number, it never should have been. It’s intended to be an illustrative exercise, to teach caution and give a trainee a metric to gauge danger, so that they understand just how fast an average person can suddenly cross what seems like a long distance.
Certainly that sequence of events could happen. If someone with a weapon in his hand, or an object which could be a weapon, suddenly charges at you full-tilt from 21 feet, it’s not the likely outcome, even if they drop the weapon just before passing your position. As an officer, you are subject to perception/reaction time, too, and it’s very likely that you’ll shoot the charging person if he closes more than roughly half the distance, because your brain has already told your body to pull the trigger, and that last instant probably won’t be enough time for you to assess that an abort is the best choice, and then actually abort.
There’s no set measurement. The Tueller drill was never intended to be a magic number, though some have treated it that way. It was intended to illustrate that in order to do our jobs in a human way, that is, within ordinary talking distance, we put ourselves way, way inside the radius of vulnerability to a sudden attack. It was also intended to illustrate just how far out that radius is.
(edited to fix tags)
Interesting article that describes how the apparent power of police unions is actually the power of an electorate that fully supports the unchecked power of the police. When a well-organized, concerted political movement succeeds in turning the electorate against unchecked police power (the New York Times fails to mention why recent police murders have been ‘high profile’ when equivalent police murders were page 14 in the local paper a year ago), the supposed power of the police unions to dictate no citizen review boards, etc. evaporates.
Right. It demonstrates the zone of vulnerability that exists when suddenly assaulted while your weapon is unreadied.
I’ve done the drill as well, though no doubt less often than you.
Run the drill as standard.
Then run it again, but let the officer draw his weapon, aim it, and say something like “halt.”
You’ll notice a significant reduction in the distance the officer needs to succeed at the drill. This is because he or she cut out several of the time consuming parts of the scenario.
When you’re done, go read the typical news story where the 21 foot rule was invoked. It will look something like this- a mentally handicapped man with a knife was scaring people. Police approached and told him to put it down. He did not, and walked towards them. So rather than backing up, they took out guns, aimed without apparent urgency, and shot him. Then the 21 foot rule gets invoked to explain why they had no choice and were at risk for their life. The argument is that the professional consensus of the law enforcement community is that their behavior was appropriate for the specific reason that the 21 foot mark was breached.
My weak stomach disqualifies me from commenting on police brutality?
Does it also disqualify me from discussing medical malpractice? I’ve been told it disqualifies me from being allowed to be non-vegetarian. Then again, I’ve also been told it means I know, deep in myself, that abortion is wrong, because otherwise looking at the results wouldn’t make me nauseated. It definitely does disqualify me from having fun watching most horror movies.
I doubt this is what you meant. I’m just pointing out that I don’t like the flourish.
With great respect, and fully acknowledging that you know a lot more than me – both as a matter of personal experience and as a matter of study – how is that British cops, few of whom carry firearms, are able to use their training and tactics to disarm
knifed attackerspeople armed with knives, without getting stabbed? Is there a reason American police couldn’t be trained to use similar tactics?
So far Patrick, Mandolin, and Ampersand have replied to my post #114. In the hope of keeping the resulting discussions as distinct and unambiguous as possible, I’m going to reply to each individually. It happens that I have some free time, so I might get them all done tonight. Stay tuned!
NOTE FOR ALL OF THESE REPLIES, SINCE THE TITLE OF THIS THREAD IS “BALTIMORE”:
Technically, my reply #114 to Patrick was a derail. I’m not talking about Baltimore PD in particular, or any Baltimore officer, or any person involved in the recent events in Baltimore. I’m not defending anyone, and I’m not taking a position pro-police or contra-police. I’m not justifying anything Baltimore PD has done, and I’m not justifying anything rioters have done. My post #114 was a response to Patrick’s comment about the Tueller drill, and I was speaking generally. I was a legally armed civilian, trained in the practical and ethical use of force up to and including lethal force, years before I was sworn in as a police officer, and barring sudden death or incapacity, I have no doubt that I will be a legally armed civilian for years after I retire entirely from policework.
Oh. I’m sorry. I probably misread entirely.
Exactly, and the key word, where some people let their definitions slip without noticing it, is “demonstrates”. Sometimes people let that slip over to “defines”. But of course you could do the same demonstration at any of several distances.
So, you got me curious. It seemed to me that you have observed the result you suggest, but I thought your “because” is incorrect. So I ran the experiment, and I’ll present what happened in detail here so that we can talk about it.
I don’t have my duty rig at home with me today, but I do have a non-security holster which I could run a sturdy leather belt through. The holster is for my Ruger GP-100 with a six-inch barrel. (For those unfamiliar, this is a large, heavy revolver chambered for .357 magnum.) Three other people helped with the experiment: my wife, Lioness, and our teenage children, Dreugan and Mango (all aliases chosen by the people they apply to; don’t blame me). I put the holster on my belt, got the revolver out of the safe and put it in the holster.
The weapon is not stored loaded, or with its ammunition.
I never handled ammunition during this experiment.
I made sure that it was not loaded.
Lioness took it in hand and checked that it was not loaded.
Dreugan checked that it was not loaded while I held it.
Mango checked that it was not loaded while I held it.
I never pointed it at any human being.
Dreugan’s line of run was offset from my line of accidental discharge, laterally, by about six feet.
My line of discharge faced an earthen slope free of large stones, with a backdrop further behind that of uninhabited woody hillside, all private property.
We ran the experiment ten times, two different ways.
On the odd numbers, Lioness said, “Go!”, at which point Dreugan sprinted as hard as he could, and I drew, aimed at a target about chest-height in front of me, and pressed the trigger. Lioness used a stopwatch to time the time from “Go” to the first trigger press.
On the even numbers, Lioness said, “Go!”, at which point Dreugan sprinted as hard as he could, and I drew, aimed at a target about chest-height in front of me, and shouted, “Halt!” Lioness used a stopwatch to time the time from “Go” to the “Halt!”
These were the results, in seconds:
Average of odd runs: 1.27 s
Average of even runs: 1.20 s
Result #2 was clearly an outlier, and I suspect human inaccuracy somewhere in the set-up (which you’ll note was not especially rigorous for events this quick, as it relied on a human timer). So, if we want to throw out the lowest of each set of trials:
Average of odd runs, excluding #5: 1.08
Average of even runs, excluding #2: 1.08
Dreugan is an athlete, and a runner. He never crossed the 21 feet before I could yell “Halt!” or press the trigger the first time. However, in all cases where I pressed the trigger, Lioness said that at the moment of the trigger press Dreugan was within a body-length of me, and would still have reached me even while falling.
At the end, I ran the drill two more times. In both cases, I yelled, “Halt!” and did a trigger press. I asked Lioness to judge how long before or after the press I yelled, “Halt!” In the first case, I made a conscious effort to yell “Halt!” only after I had my target in the sights — in other words, I was not just pointing, I was aiming. In the second case, I obeyed my training and yelled “Halt!” as quickly as I could after “Go”, and did a trigger press as soon as I had aimed and had my sight picture.
However, this time I introduced another variable: I visualized, in detail, an incident I was involved in where I was suddenly presented with a threat.
In trial 11, Lioness reported that I yelled “Halt!” very roughly a tenth of a second before the gun went click.
In trial 12, Lioness reported that I yelled “Halt!” substantially before the gun went click, at least 3/10 of a second.
This is a very small experiment, with several possible confounding variables, not the least that I was both experimenter and test subject. However, the results fall in line with my previous experience.
Whether I did a trigger press or yelled “Halt!” after having a clear sight picture, the difference between the averages was negligible and well within the probable experimental error: either 0.07 s or 0.00 s, depending on whether you want to exclude the lowest of each set of trials as possible outliers.
So, when I did not permit the actions to overlap, the results were the same.
In the case of the click, of course, the actions can’t overlap; I have to draw before I can press the trigger. In the case of the “Halt!”, they can overlap; I could shout “Halt!” without even touching my sidearm.
Now, I’m trained to yell, “Police!” and something appropriate like, “Drop the weapon!” as I draw. Ideally, I utter those words and give the attacker time to react to my command. But, life is often not ideal, and my training recognizes that if the attacker is actively aggressing — for instance, if he is pointing a gun right at me — I am still going to press the trigger as soon as I have an accurate shot, regardless of what words are starting to come out of my mouth. So the verbal utterances happen automatically, and the physical actions tailor themselves to the nature of the threat, changing appropriately as the threat changes (at any rate, we fervently hope that’s what happens physically; that is the objective of the training).
So, I suspect that if you ran your experiment on high-speed video and discarded as outside of the defined criteria any results where the utterance started before the muzzle of the gun was up on target, that you would find no significant difference between the time-to-completion for click and the time-to-completion for “Halt!”
But, as trial 11 suggests (though it’s a sample size of one), it’s really easy to get someone to compress their sequence of events to get a verbal utterance to overlap with the physical action. That’s what I suspect happened in the cases you observed.
Regardless of the small details of the fact pattern, invoking the “21-foot-rule” (which, as we’ve agreed, shouldn’t be understood as a rule at all) is, at best, not skillful communication, and, at worst, an attempt to justify something with a poor argument because you’ve got no better argument.
That said, though I’ve seen the 21-foot distance invoked in news reports, I can’t specifically remember the last time, and I’m not going to accept that characterization of them generally. We may be able to talk about specific ones, and we may not; one of my functions as a use of force instructor was to review actual uses of force, and I didn’t give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down until I had all the information. A news report never gives you all the information. So, we can speak generally about legalities and human factors, but I’m very, very unlikely to say that in a particular case someone definitely did it right or wrong.
As one of my instructors said, of the ethical use of force and the KISS principle (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”): “I’m not stupid, and it’s not simple, so the KISS principle doesn’t apply here.”
Thank you for that. Let’s find out!
No, but that’s okay, because that’s not what I said. It’s not even what I meant to say, and failed to, because I screwed up the formatting! :\
I see that what was displayed on the screen was
but that’s because I muffed a tag. I hate saying Google “knife slash wounds” in quotes, because it looks like I might mean that specific phrase, which Google puts quotes around as a unique character string, rather than those three words. So I put them inside of angle brackets. But the site interpreted that as a tag. So now I’ve put them inside of upright posts, thus:
Maybe that clarifies it a little, that I had in mind a specific image search which will have very graphic results.
Aside from my formatting mistake, please note:
I said, “Strongly suggest”, not “Can’t” or “are disqualified”.
I said, “a use of force”, not “a police use of force”, and CERTAINLY NOT “police brutality”, which is absolutely not the same thing as “use of force” (though that Venn diagram overlaps, obviously). Remember, like officers, civilians have a right to use force, too — under certain circumstances (though the exact ethical and legal limits can differ, since civilians don’t usually have arrest powers or a legal obligation to act).
What I was alluding to is this: a shot human being, and dead human being, a human being with a broken joint — these are horrible things, no matter why it happened. It may have been the best possible outcome under the immediate circumstances, and still be a horrible thing. If we are not psychopaths, we recoil instinctively from such human suffering and its graphic visual depiction.
At a gut level, it can be hard to sympathize with the person who did that to someone. It’s critically important that we understand the other side of the ledger, the other side of the cost/benefit, that we understand what the actor feared, before we judge the act. (We also have to judge other issues, like whether that fear was reasonable, and whether the response was proportionate and/or reasonable, and so on.)
Well, when one person has a knife and aggresses toward a second person, what that second person fears, if she has any experience in this area, is the images which will show up in that Google Image search. If you can’t look at those, if you can’t understand them to the same extent that you have looked at and understand the suffering caused by the alleged defensive use of force, then I don’t think you’re standing on good ground to judge that use of force.
I think that in a democracy the citizenry HAVE to be able to call out the police, even if they don’t have a clue. I just strongly suggest that they get a clue before they do it. I’m a big fan of education prior to speech, but that’s very different from trying to require it.
So that’s what my flourish was intended to address, and I’m sorry that I did not write it clearly enough.
I’ll leave your analogies aside, since I think you might now regard them as not relevant.
I believe you misunderstood me, or I wrote poorly.
Run the experiment as follows.
Attacker has knife at ready. Attacker will charge on signal.
Police officer draws weapon. Police officer aims weapon at suspect. Police officer has enough time to converse with suspect before signal is given.
Signal is given and suspect charges.
I think you might notice that the reaction time is shorter than the reaction time that would be needed if the weapon is not drawn and aimed in advance. For fairly obvious reasons.
Why is this relevant? Because cops won’t shut up about the 21 foot (or 30 foot) rule when explaining why they had to shoot someone, even though the cases in which they invoke it rarely involve suddenly drawing on a charging attacker- they involve firing an already drawn and aimed weapon at non compliant, but not charging, attacker.
Here you go. Literally the fourth result on a search of “shooting 30 foot rule” on google. Third unique result.
Quote: “Instructors and experts also seem to have forgotten that the original scenario of Lt. Tueller’s drill involved an officer with a holstered sidearm drawing and accurately firing his weapon. In the vast majority of officer-involved shootings I have investigated or reviewed, the officers already had their guns out of their holsters and were either at the “low ready” position or directly aimed at the suspects who were either armed with knives or furtively reaching into their waistbands.”
You can just keep reading down the google results. Article after article. Same story.
Which is nice to see, honestly. I independently realized that a lot of police departments were… uh… lets just say, being casual with the facts when justifying shootings in this manner. Nice to see that plenty of others, including many police officers, have drawn similar conclusions to mine.
Well, caveats first:
I’m up past my bedtime, so I reserve the right to correct typos and mis-phrasings. :)
I’ve never worked as a British officer. I’ve never even been to Britain. I’ve spoken to a few British officers about the use and carrying of firearms, including one very proper and polite retired sergeant who was vacationing in my jurisdiction some years ago. I’ve read a bit about British policing, but not in any concerted or systematic way.
I know almost nothing about the defensive tactics training of British officers. Maybe they train extensively against knife attack, maybe they don’t. I don’t know.
I have trained in defense against an attacker with a knife. It takes a lot of practice to do it right; I long ago lost count of the number of times I’ve gotten “cut” or “stabbed” in practice, but it doesn’t take much. Also, it’s a perishable skill, which means that if you don’t drill regularly, chances are good that the skill has degraded when you need it. (This is true of firearms skills, too.)
The basic rule of engaging a knife wielder up close: even if you “win”, expect to get cut. If you’re skilled and reasonably lucky, you can take a not-very-skilled knife-wielder down. But the skill differential has to be large to even the odds, and it’s never a sure thing. If the knife-wielder really knows his stuff, your risk of being cut will always be high. (That’s why the other basic rule of knife fighting which you hear a lot is “have a gun”.)
I’ve read a written account from the only person I’m aware of who has worked as an American officer AND a British officer (though I can’t now recall his name). (If memory serves, he got married and moved to England, where he was hired, trained, and worked as a British officer.) He came down firmly on the side of arming police with sidearms, and said that he had seen many times that British officers either had to fall back when faced with well-armed opponents who then got away, or got hurt when they needn’t have, or failed to protect someone else from getting hurt, because, in his view, they didn’t have the proper weaponry immediately at hand. So, take that anecdata for what it’s worth.
So, based on the above, here’s my semi-educated guess. I would guess that several factors are at play:
a. British officers do get stabbed and slashed. Not always, but sometimes. It’s inevitable, when you’re dealing with knives. Knives are quick, and simple to use, and flesh cuts easily.
b. Sometimes, British officers let people get away whom American officers would catch. In individual cases this is either a good or a bad thing, but as a general policy matter, averaging thousands of results, it’s not necessarily good or bad; it’s just what society has chosen when faced with the question, “How much force do we want our police to have, and under what circumstances.” If more actual bad guys get away in Britain (probably true) then fewer non-bad-guys get hurt (probably also true). The society decides, one way or another, what the setting on that dial is going to be.
c. British officers may get more training with the weapons they do have. I know some American officers who are very skilled with a baton, but on average British officers probably know how to use their batons (which they pronounce “BAT-uhn”) much better than we know how to use our batons (which we pronounce “buh-TOHN”). They have more incentive, since that’s the most violent tool-of-last-resort they have on their belts. (Also, for them, it’s kind of an emblem; it’s the iconic tool of their trade. For American officers, it’s our sidearms. Make of that what you will.)
d. British officers may be better at talking people into handcuffs. Needs must, and all that. When I was a young and inexperienced officer, I once danced in the dust for about twenty minutes with a guy with a violent history until my backup showed up. I wanted to seize a piece of evidence out of his car, and he didn’t want me to take it. He never touched me and I never touched him; we just circled back and forth, talking and looking for / guarding against openings. The level of the crime didn’t justify lethal force, so I couldn’t use my sidearm, and at that time the only other things on my belt were a radio and handcuffs. So I called for backup and waited for it. That’s small-town policework for you, and I’m willing to bet that British officers take a more cautious approach, on average.
e. Speaking of backup, it would not surprise me if British officers get more of it, and faster, especially in urban areas. That makes “contain and await the arrival of overwhelming force” a more attractive option, on average.
But, all of this is me speculating. Let’s move on to where I’m on firmer ground:
No reason it CAN’T be done. It just takes time and money, and lots of each. It takes many hours of training to get good at dealing with knife-wielders, and that training requires maintenance. Also, where many firearms skills can be practiced solo, almost all knife skills have to be in paired practice. Once you have two people practicing together, the chance of incidental injury goes way up. When that happens (and averaged over enough training hours it happens at a consistent rate) you have to deal with medical bills, worker’s comp, overtime for other people to cover the injured officer’s shifts, and all that. It adds up quickly. There’s always pressure to make the training safer, which is certainly worth the effort, but there’s a point where making it safer makes it less effective.
Also, while I’ve known specific officers to be very focused and intentional skill-builders, in my experience when you get officers in general into a room to work on defensive tactics, the majority only want to do the minimum, and there’s a lot of horsing around, and a lot of hanging back, because they don’t want to trade sweat or end up in a headlock with Moose over there. Since people generally have a higher opinion of their skills than reality does (remember how 80% of drivers think they’re above average?), and officers tend to be self-confident and self-assess higher than they can perform, officers generally stop practicing critical skills long before they should. (This is also generally true of firearms skills, though again, there are always those who go above and beyond.)
While we’re on the topic of evaluation, it’s easy to evaluate how well someone shoots. Make a course of fire as realistic as possible, run someone through it, and see if the holes in the moving paper targets are where you want them to be. The course can be standardized.
Evaluation of defensive tactics always relies on the instructor’s judgement. You can’t replicate the same test for everyone; even when you have the same two people start the same way every time, it evolves a little differently every time. So that’s another thing administrators hate; there’s a lot of room for accusations of favoritism or discrimination in the evaluation process.
All of these points, except the bit about injuries, are also true of de-escalation training. It takes (at least) paired practice, it takes motivation, it takes judgement in evaluation, and so on.
But, if you make it a requirement and pay people to do it, it can get done. Just takes time and money. Lots of time and lots of money.
And here’s where we’re starting from. I’ve worked with agencies which send some of their officers to the shooting range ONCE A YEAR (because the state requires it), and have their officers refresh defensive tactics for four hours one every FIVE TO TEN YEARS (sometimes longer if you were on vacation that day). (I’ve worked with agencies which did better than that, too. I’m just illustrating the scope of the problem if your agency doesn’t think regular drill is a priority. Or important at all.)
What we need is firearms drill for two to four hours at least once a month and defensive tactics drill for two to four hours at least once a week. So that’s twelve times the hours and ammunition, for firearms training, and for defensive tactics training roughly four hundred times the hours and associated costs (worker’s comp, medical bills, sick coverage, lawsuits, etc).
I would love to see it happen. There are bright spots — I’ve read accounts of agencies who got a wake-up call and modified their training. The police in Tokyo, Japan, are famous for sending their riot police to a solid year of hand-to-hand training — see if you can find THAT in the United States! But there are lots of agencies which don’t train well, and lots of communities which can’t afford good training… even though, like education, it’s generally cheaper than the alternative in the long run.
Time and money. And vision.
Oh, yes, clearly. Now I see what you’re getting at. The nature of the assessment is different, because the officer is in a heightened state of alertness, and so the assessment time will be shorter, and of course the reaction time is shorter, because you’ve cut out a number of steps which add up to significant time: hand-to-holster, release-holster, draw.
That said, 21 feet may still not be a safe distance. It depends on other variables. Are we dealing with someone who’s jacked up on adrenaline and screaming incoherently? Chances are good that your first shot, even if it hits (and here we can get to the miserable real-life hit ratio) will not stop that aggressor. So if you’re at 21 feet or so, it would be a good idea to create some distance. On the other hand, if you’ve got a guy who has been talking softly about suicide while toying a box cutter, and who stands up and walks toward you with the box cutter held limply in one hand, you may not be justified in shooting at a distance of 15 feet, especially if there are obstacles between you, or you have an officer near you using less lethal rounds.
Yes, I’ve read that article before. Some of the comments are worth reading, too. Note this excerpt, simply because a lot of people discussing use of force have never given any thought to perception lag:
At any rate, it sounds like we’re pretty much agreeing. Each use of force has to be evaluated on the totality of the circumstances, not via simplistic rules. And this is true whether or not a particular incident involves a police officer.
It’s also worth mentioning that UK police officers are issued anti stab vests; American bullet proof vests do not, iirc, provide a lot of protection against cutting implements because of what they’re designed to be resistant to.
I took what we were suppose to google as obvious without being explicitly stated in your original post, so the correction of the < %gt; problem didn’t change my reading (which was the same as Mandolin’s). I disagree that I need to be willing to look at pictures of knife wounds and bullet wounds and all the other ways that people can be grievously injured or killed in order to be capable of forming reasonably informed opinions on the use of force.
Understanding why someone would fear being stabbed repeatedly with a knife does not actually require looking at pictures of knife wounds (plenty of people who use lethal force to defend themselves against being stabbed have never seen pictures of knife wounds either- does that mean that they are less capable of judging whether they should use force to defend themself?). Understanding why it is bad that someone has been shot and killed does not require me looking at gunshot wounds. Understanding why people in Ferguson were furious at the police does not require me looking at autopsy pictures of someone whose body was left lying in the summer sun for four and half hours for no particular reason.
I am able to understand the concepts without seeing the images.
I don’t believe that the average 4channer or “Faces of Death” watcher has a substantially greater understanding of fear of serious injury or the significance of violence than I do, even though they have seen far more images of death and dismemberment.
We may simply have to disagree, on this. Which is okay; there are many topics on which people of good conscience can differ.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “Seeing is believing”. We are a visual species. Many years ago, when I was starting my career, the TV show COPS was a new thing, as was in-car video for police cars. There was a video from a stop made by a Maine state trooper in 1992 where the driver got a little heated and tore up the ticket. It made the rounds. And I lost count of the number of people who, on seeing it, said, “Oh my God. People talk to officers like that?” It got to the point where I started saying something like, “Yes, sometimes. I’m curious, when I’ve described someone as swearing at me, what did you think I meant?” And they would often say, “Well, nothing like that!”
Now there’s more video than anyone could watch of officers and motorists doing what they do, so we’re inured to it. But back then, people literally had no idea, and couldn’t picture it when I described it to them, or didn’t believe it. These weren’t bad people; it was just far enough outside their experience that they couldn’t picture it. Now that’s changed.
Some of the public education work I do on my own time could be described as “conversing with people in an ordinary fashion while they know that I’m trans”. It’s not that they’re bad people. They just have no experience of trans people who aren’t what they’ve seen stereotyped on Law and Order. Intellectually, maybe they already know that trans people are basically like everyone else. But they have to experience it to understand it more fully.
A polyamorous friend of mine has described a similar experience. Someone gets to know her and then learns that she’s poly, and says something like, “But you seem so well-adjusted” or “But you guys seem so happy”. Intellectually, they maybe knew that happy poly arrangements were possible, theoretically, but they clearly had never really pictured it.
This is why citizen’s academies are so effective. You can talk about auditory exclusion, and tunnel vision until you’re blue in the face, but everyone in the audience is thinking they’re secretly immune, that that sort of stuff happens to other people. It’s not until you train them, put them through a simulation where they have to make fast decisions, video them doing it, get them to write an after-action report, and then bring them in the next day to compare what they wrote to what is plainly visible on the video that they realize how easily they can remember shooting only twice, when in fact they shot eight times. And now they have a different understanding, an experiential understanding.
This is why my local county attorney, in trying sexual assault cases, has had such good results with having experts in memory and cognition teach juries about the effects of traumatic experience on the brain. Testimony which seems contradictory or uncertain when you consider it from a comfortable chair becomes part of a recognizable pattern when you understand better how human memory and cognition work under stress. Puzzling and bizarre victim actions, like not reporting immediately, or not saying certain things until two days later, become evidence of trauma, rather than evidence of deception.
I’m not saying that you have to be shot to understand that being shot is bad. I’m saying that if you’ve seen an image of a gunshot wound, you’ll have a better idea of how bad it can be. I’m not saying that if you’ve never been in a war zone you can’t understand that war is bad. But when people speak about the costs of war, I give more weight to the statements of people who have experienced war zones, and I think that people who can’t even watch war movies maybe shouldn’t pass judgement on the decisions people (whether soldier or civilian) make in war zones.
I’m not setting the bar especially high, here. This isn’t even a hurdle; it’s a speed bump. I’m not saying you have to get slashed. I’m saying that if you look at clear images of what happens when people get slashed, you’ll understand the topic better, and if you can’t clear that low hurdle, if you can’t look at wound images on a computer screen, while you are in a safe environment, maybe you should refrain from expressing firm opinions on the topic. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a person who makes a safety call not to deal with certain topics. Which is fine.
Also, I wasn’t trying to suggest that if you already have this experience fresh enough or in enough details, you had to look at the images again. Maybe Mandolin worked as an inner-city EMT earlier in her life (or does now, for all I know) or got her arm laid open by a piece of sharp metal in an accident. In that case, she already knows 99% of what those images might convey, and then some.
But I have a lot of life experience trying to discuss complex topics with well-meaning, thoughtful, intelligent people, people I like and respect, who simply didn’t have enough background in the area we were talking about to understand and interpret the evidence. (Heck, I’ve seen people who should have enough background screw it up; I once watched a judge mis-apply a fixed speed formula in a case involving a decelerating car, and on the basis of that single calculation on his note pad, disregard the crash reconstructionist’s entire testimony and find a defendant not guilty.)
So, on topics where judgement is not necessary, I think people should generally be cautious about passing judgement until they know a certain minimum amount about the topic. And in cases where people MUST pass judgement, as the electorate must pass judgement on the actions of government employees, people should see to it that they get the education they need to pass judgement well. And they often don’t.
Note also that “passing judgement” is different from “talking about”, and to my way of thinking demands a higher standard of foundational knowledge.
Sorry to ramble on. The above is an expanded version of what I tried to encapsulate with a (apparently ill-advised) tossed-off
If you think about it from the perspective of a non-police advocate, you quickly realize that almost all police interactions have two declining priorities.
1) Don’t get hurt.
2) Follow the law, including restrictions on use of force.
3) Don’t hurt the person you’re dealing with.
There’s probably not much we can to do broadly change the First Rule of Policing into something else, so it’s really an issue of tradeoffs.
If you want people to avoid shooting people because they may be too slow to draw their gun, then they will simply draw their gun (and aim it) much sooner, which creates an entirely different set of risks. It is better to have a lot of guns out and aimed at people, or is it better to have fewer guns aimed? Depends on which risk you want, remembering the First Rule of Policing.
If you want police to try to create situations where they are less scared and therefore less likely to hurt people, they will adopt increasingly aggressive tactics regarding compliance. They will be less likely to shoot someone who instantly goes face-down arms-out at the first call of “police,” but in response, they will view people who don’t do that as an increased risk and will tase/shoot them more often.
If you want people to avoid shooting people when other non-lethal measures are available, then as a practical matter you end up vastly increasing the use of non-lethal force. Is it better to have a lot of people wrongfully Tased? Or to have a much smaller # of people wrongfully shot?
If you want people to stand farther away to reduce the need to shoot at all, then you reduce their ability to conduct certain types of calming conversations, and to see all sorts of important things and expressions. Do you want the default tactic “discuss from 50 feet, w/ aimed shotgun?”
Ain’t no good solution, I don’t think
Grace, you’re condensing a few things.
First — that seeing images is the same as encountering things in lived experience. It’s pretty much not. You could show people a picture of yourself as a trans cop; you could even show them a video of you interacting as a trans cop (which would be more effective). Neither would have the same unlocking to understanding as a lived experience. Your own examples about yourself and your poly friend demonstrate this.
Second — Accepting that lived experience is not the same as encountering some aspect (visual) of it, you are then assuming that visual encounters are better at viscerally conveying information than non-visual ones for all people. I ask you to consider that not everyone’s brains work the same way.
Third — Yes, I’m still going with the examples I listed before. I don’t have to be able to look at pictures of surgical abortions to be okay with them.
Fourth — Granted, I’m on the extreme side of not being able to look at violence without having an anxiety reaction. I can’t watch The Walking Dead. I have to cover my eyes during Fight Club. I covered my eyes through parts of Pulp Fiction, but missed realizing I shouldn’t look at one of them, and felt fairly sick for a few days. House regularly made me ill until we stopped watching it. I want very much to be able to watch the new Brian Fuller show about Hannibal, but it seems like it’s out of the cards for me. In the “lived experience” vein, when Mike was getting an IV and they were having trouble finding a vein, I had to go to the bathroom and throw up. And I’m one of those people who, if watching the vial fill with her own blood at the doctor’s, will get light-headed and nauseated and have to sit with my head between my knees (though I have managed never to actually faint).
When emergencies happen — and especially if I have to take care of someone else — the cold part of my brain takes over, switches off my emotions, and I deal with it. Our cats periodically bleed on me and do other gross things that I wouldn’t be able to deal with on TV, and Mike has been quite disgusting on multiple occasions. But in real life, I deal, because — as Terry Pratchett says — you do the job that’s in front of you.
So, yes, I understand that medical things are horrible, quite viscerally.
Fifth — It’s somewhat of a grumpy point, but from an artistic standpoint, I still don’t think that images are necessarily more viscerally involving than other ways of learning about things. If I want to convey the deep fear of being in a situation that requires the use of force, I’d probably use a story, not an image, to do so. That doesn’t mean that an image is an inferior way to convey it, but a story would allow the layering of psychology, emotion, and distorting consciousness at every level in the narrative. One of the most striking moments in my career was when someone told me that a story of mine gave her a big breakthrough in contextualizing and coping with the abuse she’d suffered as a child. Brains are complex things and people process information in different ways; there are many paths to emotionally saturated outcomes.
All I want right now is for the police not to mangle the 21 foot rule to justify unnecessary killings by giving them a gloss of objectivity that isn’t justified by the actual test. The exercise just illustrates the effect of reaction time in a specific scenario. General knowledge about reaction time is relevant to most shootings. The actual measurement has literally nothing to do with the vast majority of shootings, because if the person is actually charging you with a knife, the rule isn’t needed to justify the shooting, but if the person is NOT charging you with the knife, then the moment you draw and ready your weapon, the pertinent aspects of the scenario have been materially changed.
Imagine a civilian making this argument: “He had a knife, and was about 30 feet away. He wasn’t charging me or anything. But I knew that I wouldn’t be able to draw, aim, and fire in time if he did. This meant my life was in danger. So I drew. Then aimed. At this point he still wasn’t charging me. Then I shot him.”
There are definitely larger questions to discuss about the willingness of the police to casually trade the certainty of someone else’s death against the epistemically possibility that their own life might be at risk. We could discuss what it says about our society that our gun owners are perfectly fine with police riddling someone with bullets for possibly being a bad guy and having something in their hand that might be a gun. We could discuss whether it’s ethical to call the police if you believe that what a situation needs is deescalation rather than bullets. There are loads of conversations we could have.
But if police training nationwide is premised on bad logic designed to whitewash shootings, we can’t get very far because our professional law enforcement isn’t ready to be an equal partner in the conversation.
I didn’t intend to say that they’re the same thing. Of course they’re not. As a basis for knowledge, in general seeing still images is inferior to lived experiences, though not always nor in all ways.
This is a really good point, and I’m glad that you made it. Thanks.
So, one of the points which I thought about making in my most recent post, but omitted because it was already too long, is this: everyone has a right to make a safety call. If you have to limit exposure to something for your own safety or health, you should do so. I’ve certainly made choices like that, and I encourage others to do so.
That said, having to make choices like that may unfit a person for certain tasks. If someone has a really hard time being close to people showing a lot of skin, maybe a career as a massage therapist isn’t in the cards. It’s not a value judgement; it’s just that different people are different, and some are better at some things and worse than others. It’s awesome from the Getting Through Life perspective that you can batten down your hatches and motor through, when life hands you something which could be triggering. But as you know well, for the long term it’s probably a good idea to avoid that deliberate dissociation as a routine strategy. That’s exactly what trips up a lot of emergency workers, actually; making that a go-to strategy. It’s very healthy in the short-term survival sense, and very unhealthy in the long-term health sense.
Okay, so you’ve got the life experience I spoke to. In essence, you’ve already looked at images like those. If you had to, you could again. Works for me.
You and LeGuin, both. It’s an excellent point, and in my mind is essentially your second point from a different angle.
I think that where you’re running into rocky ground, here, is in characterizing “police training nationwide”. There are generalizations to be made, but once you get into the details like how (and whether; I seldom use it) the Tueller drill is used, you’ll find an extreme level of variation, which shows essentially that law enforcement in the United States varies state-to-state, and often varies a great deal region-to-region (California, for instance, has many academies, some run by departments, some run as extensions of the state college system), and then varies again once you get down to particular departments.
The link you cited is for a professional magazine, and you can see a bit of the ongoing conversation embodied in that article and the discussion afterward. The author, who is a professional law enforcement instructor and investigator of officer-involved shootings, made exactly the point you and I have agreed on, that the Tueller drill is often misunderstood and misapplied.
So, as bitter and frustrated as I can be about the state of law enforcement training (and see my reply to Barry, upstream), as much room as there is for improvement, I think that “Police training nationwide is premised on bad logic designed to whitewash shootings” is overstating your case.
You’re overall argument, the above bit in particular, sounds analogous to the concept of privilege. That is, most people have the privilege of either not encountering the most violent individuals in society, or if they do they have the option of running the other way. Police officers don’t have that privilege; the nature of their duties means they have to actively seek out and confront those violent individuals. As a result of this privilege, most people will have difficulty understanding the perspective and challenges faced by the police in regularly confronting these violent individuals.
Judging from the legislative power of police organizations and dearth of convictions or even indictments of police officers, I’d wager that most people have no difficulty understanding this perspective.
Hmmmm…interesting angle…I heard one officer explain it this way:
I don’t know if you by replacing Santiage with Freddie Gray are trying to pass of a monologue from ‘A few good men’ as something a police officer said or if a police officer somewhere quoted/paraphrased the movie lines to represent his own ethos. I am going to treat it as the latter.
That sound scarily like an argument for pre-emptive execution if coming from a police officer.
I found that deeply disconcerting.
I really hope people can tell that my point is miles away from the perspective in the A Few Good Men quote. Suggesting that many people will have difficulty taking the perspective of police officers into account when making judgement is not the same thing as saying the police should be above the law. Nor is it saying that democracy is incapable of governing the issue (which Grace pointed out earlier).
I was just joking with the “a few good men” quote.
The serious argument is the one above: the fact that we provide police officers with a tremendous amount of leeway and protection when it comes to accusations of brutality problematizes desipis’ concept of civilian-privilege.
I suppose we could still thread a needle and say; while most people cannot understand the perspective of police officers, they allow for that very perspective to rule our justice system. But I think such threading renders the concept moot. After all, the “privileged” perspective is not the ruling one.
It is true that police officers, by the nature of our work, commonly have to deal with many negative things which most non-police officers don’t. To characterize that as a manifestation of Privilege, as the term is commonly used in discussing racism, sexism, and other patterns of discrimination… with all due respect, that strikes me as a risible misunderstanding of the term.
Clearly Privilege can be difficult to understand. I have come to believe that it’s very useful as a term of art among people with a shared understanding up to a point who want to discuss a topic further, but that it’s not very useful as a term of persuasion, especially when directed toward people who are members of Privileged groups. Look around for a definition and you’ll see that even people who seem to find the term illuminating and useful can have a hard time defining it.
If I had to define Privilege on the spot, I might come up with something like this: an interrelated network of unearned systemic advantages, commonly experienced by members of certain groups which are largely immutable and marked by a broadly-shared understanding of members of a society, and generally unnoticed by members of those groups.
What makes police officers, and therefore non-police-officers, not meet that definition? Well, I think we probably fail that test in several ways, but here’s the easiest: we can quit.
I could tender my resignation from policework tomorrow. I tried to tender my resignation from being trans for decades, and it always got rejected. I’m a white trans lesbian woman, and I’m stuck with all of those group markers whether I like it or not. The first one, in my society, pays me a daily stipend whether I ask for it or not. The others, not so much. The reverse, in fact.
In this thread, I’ve been discussing the idea that people should refrain from making judgements on topics where they don’t have a grasp on certain minimal and generally easily-obtained fundamentals within the subject matter. Quite explicitly (see post #119), I was not comparing officers as a group to any other group.
Grace: I’m sympathetic to your viewpoint. I don’t indulge in visceral images of violence, but, if I can make an analogy, there are many times in discussions about rape and sexual violence where I want to go “OK, non-survivors, get the fuck out of the room.” And, of course, sometimes it’s right to do that. It’s okay to have conversations that are only for survivors.
But the public discourse can’t be that kind of conversation. Fear and threat of rape is and always has been a part of our public discourse and cultural customs, things which affect far more people than just survivors. Yes, to a degree, survivors should have a privileged voice in discussion about rape, and I don’t think we should be unheard. But there are so many other aspects (sociological, statistical, cultural, interpersonal) and that doesn’t mean we get to dominate the discourse around it.
In discussions of violence, I understand the impulse to be like “people who haven’t been on my end of this, get out of the room.” But violence and, specifically, police violence, is a huge force in our society today, extending well beyond the moment-to-moment decisions. To put it bluntly, I’m never going to look at graphic images of violence. My mental health is far more fragile than I often present in blog comments, and I’m pretty sure it would not be good for me.
According to your standard, me managing my mental illness means I should refrain from commenting about police violence. This is preposterous. A little under half of the people shot by the police in the US are severely mentally ill (a rate roughly 10x more than sane people). For various reasons (I’m white, I’m not homeless, I’m good at short-term passing, I’m good at assessing when I’m going to have a breakdown, I am lucky to have my PTSD mostly manifest as depression rather than externally, I don’t live in a rural area) I’m not likely to personally be a victim, but the potential for violence is a significant factor in my life and my choices, including things like the necessity and consequences of becoming good at short-term passing, and also including things like whether or not to leave the house today. My local police shoot a lot of crazy people. If I lost my housing, had a bad day…
Ultimately, though, the problem of police violence affects everyone in society, not just its potential instigators and their potential victims. Even if someone is privileged enough to avoid it entirely, they’re still going to have friends, family, and other people they know who are directly affected. And, furthermore, they’re going to live in a society shaped by that problem, and the fear of it, and the fear that causes it.
We should all be better, more knowledgeable commentators on this issue. I don’t dispute that. But there are a lot of paths to knowledge. To me, I would much rather see participants with a good grasp of sociology and statistics, people who understand at a intuitive level that both civilians and police are safer now than they ever have been in this country’s history, who understand that, despite this, police violence is a problem that shows no signs of stopping. People who have a glimmer of the cultural and market forces that increase fear even as danger vanishes. I, personally, feel like that understanding is far more important than looking at explicit images of stab wounds, although I understand that that is, in its own way, usually* a form of understanding. If I were going to gatekeep the public discourse around police violence, that’s where I’d do it. But, fortunately, I can’t gatekeep that discourse, and neither can you.
* For others, it’s a form of pornography.
Question about the legal process here. Doesn’t the State’s Attorney have to seek indictments in front of a Grand Jury for these charges? Doesn’t second-degree murder qualify as an “infamous crime” as far as the 5th Amendment goes?
I’m not clear whether the state’s attorney went before a grand jury or whether she just went to a judge and presented evidence of probable cause to indict (prosecutors can go either route in Maryland according to the NY Times). The 5th amendment applies to Federal courts and the right to a grand jury proceeding is not one that is considered to be extended to the states by the 14th amendment.
Also, remember that when a prosecutor is not trying to make things take forever and is not presenting an incredibly complicated case, grand juries usually hear cases in minutes, not months, so she could have gone to a grand jury whenever.
That’s not an incorporated right.
Initially, the bill of rights applied only to the federal government.
Then we had a giant civil war, and one of the conditions imposed by the victors was the passage of a law that said, among other things, that everyone had a right to “due process.” The gist of what was meant by this was that you couldn’t railroad people into jail anymore.
But what, exactly, did that mean? Operationally?
If it only meant that you had a right to whatever process you were due, then the states could pass a law declaring that the only thing you were “due” was a sharp stick in the eye.
The Supreme Court took a different view, and concluded that “due process” was a technical phrase for, essentially, a minimally fair trial. Through a series of cases they outlined which minimal portions of the Bill of Rights states had to follow, like it or not.
The 5th Amendment grand jury clause never made the cut.
Various states have non grand jury charging processes.
desipis, re: privilege:
What you’re talking about sounds closer to the concept of lived experience. Where lived experience ties in to privilege–the fact that other people don’t have to learn the knowledge that oppressed people learn through their lived experience, but the oppressed people have to know how privileged people think because they live in the privileged people’s world–it’s somewhat similar, but why Grace has to learn that stuff is different. As Grace said, she can choose to switch careers and no longer concern herself with it. I think merely the fact that it’s a choice isn’t a completely satisfying answer to me, but the fact that it’s not just a choice but a skill you learn in order to work in a certain career, one that is directly related to your career, is relevant.
Looking at another type of job, I think that having to learn to check your car for bombs in order to hold a job performing abortions is, I don’t think oppression/disprivilege per se, but at least unjust. But having to learn how to do abortions and having to pay a bunch of money for medical school, since they are directly relevant to the job, are not unjust.
I think that Patrick and Mandolin and I have reached something close to a meeting of minds. So, thanks to both of you for an interesting conversation conducted with apparent good will. I appreciate it.
To discuss the ethical and legal use of force in general, as distinct from ethical and legal use of force by the police. Even though I’ve tried to express myself precisely, I’ve had to clarify a lot of what I said.
Now I see that Ben Lehman, ordinarily a very sympathetic and appreciative reader of my prose, has replied directly to me to argue against positions I haven’t taken, and in a couple of cases have specifically rejected.
I suspect that this thread was simply the wrong place to try to make these points, and whatever success I’m going to have, I’ve already had. So, whatever the merits of what I’ve been trying to say, I’m going to try to bow out. (I recognize that I may fail, in this, since keeping my mouth shut on certain topics is something I do poorly. But I’m going to try.)
Ben, please, this is not a hit on you. I actually agree with most of what you said. If fate had arranged matters so that you spoke first, maybe I’d have had a conversation with you and hit my limit on something Mandolin or Patrick said. Best wishes.
Sorry to have misread you, Grace.
closetpuritan, I agree with what you said. The “lived experience” term is probably a better way to describe the concept.
One issue I’m thinking about is about the reasonable level of risk. I’ve seen many people talking about these issues as if they are isolated incidents, where each party (the police officer and the member of the public) ought to be afforded equal expectations in terms of the level of risk to their health and life. While that’s certainly one way to look at it, I’m not sure it’s the whole picture.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the police officers look at the issue of risk solely in this isolated way. While they have the same right as the other parties to go away from any incident unharmed, I think they also have the same right as other people to retire from their law enforcement careers with their life and health in the same way people in other careers do. Thus, the cumulative risk to their lives and health over their careers is also a key factor. The question is, does this justify taking actions to protect themselves from risks in individual circumstances in ways that are not justified for members of the public?
I would also add that I’m not arguing in defence of the officers the Freddie Gray case. The charges the prosecutor put forward seem consistent with the alleged facts. Though whether those facts are proved beyond reasonable doubt by the evidence is another question.
I want to thank Grace here for trying to talk about something that is difficult at the best of times and doing it in a space that is, mostly, less than sympathetic to police violence. Although I may not agree with everything she wrote, I’m very happy to have had a police perspective so thoughtfully and civilly exhibited.
Of all the things you wrote here, Grace, I agree most with what you wrote about the policing philosophy & practices we currently have being the ones that US culture has chosen and what it would take to change it.
Thank you again for what could not have been an easy thing to do.
Just got linked to DeBoer’s blog, where he is literally making fun of the LGM bloggers for still blogging in 2015 (“so 2006”) and calling them “neckbeards.”
I stand by my characterization.
Wow, I couldn’t make it through the first paragraph of that deBoer post before I stopped reading in complete disgust.
I don’t follow DeBeor and consequently have no view upon his general performance, but I agree that the post you linked was pretty terrible.
That doesn’t make your characterisation of his other post correct. He did not make the argument you claimed he did, nor does his general performance as a blogger have any bearing upon the merit of the argument he did make.
Might have been worth reading it through, just for the entertainment value of seeing a doubly self-refuting post:
DeBeor’s thesis in this post is “it’s all about me”. Yet the post he’s lampooning isn’t about him at all. It’s about some things he said.
In “writing about what I write about” they’re writing about what they want. BeBeor on the other hand “wants” on this occasion to write about what they’re writing about. On other words, DeBeor is doing exactly what he’s ridiculing them for.
He’s also wrong about what the Streisand Effect is.
Regarding this deBoer blog post, I wrote:
1). deBoer made both the arguments I claimed he made. He spent most of the post blathering about the alleged bad motives of people making an argument, as I claimed. But he never really refuted the argument he was responding to in any way apart from attacking the characters of those making it. I think it’s fair to characterize that as an “ad hom.” (I guess you could say that he wasn’t intending to imply that the argument he was addressing was wrong, and therefore attacking the speakers instead of the argument doesn’t amount to an ad hom? In which case, all I can say is that you read his post differently than I did.)
2). I never claimed or even implied that “his general performance as a blogger have any bearing upon the merit of the argument he did make.” I did say this post was typical of deBoer’s work, but that’s not the same.
Oh, on rereading, I get it: I said “I stand by my characterization,” but when Ballgame used the word “mis-characterization,” that particular word was referring to my characterization of one particular deBoer post. So that’s why you said “nor does his general performance as a blogger have any bearing upon the merit of the argument he did make,” right?
When I said “I stand by my characterization,” I was thinking of my characterization of deBoer’s blogging as a whole, not just that one post. I now realize that’s not how Ballgame used the word. However, since Ballgame also wrote “but the notion that he’s just some kind of mud-slinger is total BS. He may be smug on occasion, but I wish every blogger wrote with his level of fair-mindedness and integrity,” it seems fair to say he was disputing my characterization of deBoer’s blogging as a whole, and not only my characterization of that one post.
OK, after an initial misunderstanding I think (hope) we’re clear on our respective positions. You think deBeor’s speciality is smug ad homs, ballgame thinks he’s a fine upstanding fellow, and I have no view on or particularly interest in the matter, so I’ll leave you to duke that one out with ballgame, if you both feel so minded.
In respect of the specific deBeor post originally linked to by LTL FTC, you think it argued one thing. I think it argued something else. You think saying that his speciality is smug ad homs had some valid relevence to the matter. I think your remark was an ad hom logical fallacy itself. We could duke this out between us if we both felt so minded. But I don’t, so I’ll just drop out of this particular side discussion.
Works for me! :-)