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“We Deserve Good Policing”: Legal Or Not, ‘Warrior Policing Mentality’ Leads To Deadly Outcomes

When I first heard about the arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland in Texas after she apparently tried to get out of the way of a police vehicle and failed to signal a lane change, I immediately thought of the University of South Carolina law professor (and ex-cop) Seth Stoughton’s distinction between the “warrior” and “guardian” models of policing, as explained here at TMS a while back.

So I was pleased to see that TPM recruited Stoughton to watch the daschcam video of the encounter between Texas trooper Brian Encinia and Bland and offer his commentary.

He concludes that Encinio did nothing illegal–but also avoided several opportunities to de-escalate the situation, pretty clearly because he thought it was important to have Bland acknowledge his authority. And so an encounter that might have been brief and harmless–it seems Encinio intended to give Bland a mere warning until she started acting uppity–turned confrontational, violent, and eventually, for Bland, lethal.

Concludes Stoughton:

When Encinia ordered Bland to exit her vehicle, she refused. “I don’t have to step out of my car.” Rather than handling the remainder of the stop with her sitting in the car, or explaining why he wanted her to step out of the car, or attempting to obtain her cooperation, or calmly explaining the law, Encinia simply invoked his legal authority, shouting at one point, “I gave you a lawful order.” He was right. It was lawful. And when Bland did not obey, she was refusing a lawful order, a crime under Texas law. Her arrest, like the confrontations that led up to it, may have been lawful, but it was entirely avoidable had Encinia chosen a different approach.

We all deserve more than legal policing. We deserve good policing.

Now it’s entirely possible Encinio was strictly following his training, which, as Stoughton has noted in the past, is often based on the “warrior model” notion that every citizen is a potential cop-killer and every encounter a potential shoot-out, making it incumbent on the officer to “stay in charge” from the first moment. But if this isn’t a situation where bad policing can be blamed on a “bad cop,” it’s all the more reason to examine our policies to make sure certain Americans don’t have to assume–as Sandra Bland seemed to fear, accurately–that minor traffic offenses can turn deadly.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 24, 2015

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Police Shootings, Sandra Bland | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Expansive ‘Warrior’ Mindset”: Police Shouldn’t Ask If A Shooting Is Justified, But If It’s Avoidable

Every time a police shooting gets national attention, the difference in the conflicting attitudes that civilians and law enforcement have toward the use of force is glaring. That conflict drives much of the tension between police agencies and the communities they serve.

When cops evaluate a use-of-force incident, they ask whether it was justified, focusing on the legal rule set by the Supreme Court in the 1989 case Graham v. Connor. The Court held that officers may use force so long as it is “objectively reasonable.” To determine whether a particular action was objectively reasonable, the Court held, judges must view the situation through the deferential lens of “a reasonable officer on the scene.”

When civilians evaluate a use-of-force incident, they ask whether it was avoidable. They want to know whether the officer could have done something—anything—else.

The tragic shooting of Tamir Rice last November puts the difference between “justified” and “avoidable” in stark contrast. Officers responding to call that there was a “man with a gun” in a park drove to within about ten feet of their suspect. One officer jumped out of the car and, within two seconds, fatally shot the 12-year-old. Was it justified? Probably, if one narrowly considers the officers proximity to an apparently armed man. Was it avoidable? Almost certainly, when one acknowledges that the officers could have—and should have—parked at a safe distance and approached cautiously by using cover, concealment, and communication.

Why do most officers, charged with serving and protecting their communities, persist in asking whether a use of force was justified rather than necessary? I put a great deal of blame on the expansive “warrior mindset” that has become so highly esteemed in the law enforcement community. To protect themselves, to even survive, officers are taught to be ever-vigilant. Enemies abound, and the job of the Warrior is to fight and vanquish those enemies.

That’s not the right attitude for police. Our officers should be, must be, guardians, not warriors. The goal of the Guardian isn’t to defeat an enemy, it is to protect the community to the extent possible, including the community member that is resisting the officer’s attempt to arrest them. For the guardian, the use of avoidable violence is a failure, even if it satisfies the legal standard.

Society invests a tremendous amount of trust and responsibility into our police officers. Policing is a difficult job, not least because of the potential for violence that cannot be predicted or, in many cases, prevented.

But in the long run, it would be safer for everyone if officers saw their role as guarding the community, not defeating enemies.

 

By: Seth Stoughton, Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law affiliated with the Rule of Law Collaborative. He served as a city police officer and state investigator: Opinion Pages, Room for Debate, The New York Times, April 9, 2015

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Justifiable Homicide, Police Shootings, Police Violence | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who’s Been Naughty And Who’s Been Nice?”: A Few Suggestions To Help St. Nick Complete His List

He’s making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty or nice . . .”

Santa Claus does not, of course, need any help in deciding among the deserving and undeserving this holiday season. But with Christmas only days away and the North Pole toy shop backed up with orders, here are, in the spirit of the season, a few suggestions to help St. Nick complete his lists so he and his reindeer can get on their way, and on time.

Naughty: Elizabeth Lauten, the Republican congressional communications director who dissed Sasha and Malia Obama for their clothes and facial expressions during the president’s pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.

Nice: The nation’s beautiful first daughters, who handle their unsought duties with grace, dignity and a maturity found lacking in many twice their ages.

Naughty: The 63.6 percent of Americans in our democracy who didn’t vote in 2014.

Nice: The 36.4 percent who chose to exercise that precious and fundamental right.

Naughty (worse than that): Police officers in Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island whose actions made sure a Missouri teenager, a 12-year-old Ohio boy with an air pistol and a New York father won’t be home — or anywhere else on this earth — on Christmas Day.

Nice: My multiracial neighbors and hundreds like them who lined 16th Street NW from the White House to Silver Spring in a candlelight vigil for justice for all people, including the victims who were united — as were the cops— by the color of their skin.

Naughty: The Ferguson protesters who resorted to vandalism and looting.

Nice: The Ferguson demonstrators who exercised their First Amendment rights within the law.

Naughty: The Beta Sigma chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority at the University of Maryland, which posted a photo featuring a sorority member posing with an alcohol-bottle and cupcake-laden 21st-birthday cake that, according to WTTG-TV (Channel 5), included the “N” word and “a sexual act that is performed on an African-American man.” Ouch. Naughty is not the word for the behavior of these flowers of America’s future.

Nice: The Howard University students who staged a powerful protest, which included their hands outstretched in a “Don’t Shoot” pose.

Naughty: The black offenders who make crime a serious problem in African American communities.

Nice: The African American cops, prosecutors, judges and black-dominated juries that are arresting, trying, convicting and sending to jail these offenders, hence putting a lie to the myth that “black-on-black” crime is tolerated or excused. Just as it is nonsense to bewail “white-on-white” crime because most white folks killed are done in by other white folks. Santa ought to reward the black, white, brown, etc., people, including police officers who risk their lives to protect us and who refuse to buy into the myth.

Naughty: Congressional Republicans, instigated by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris , who are trampling all over the D.C. Home Rule Act to block the city from implementing a democratically passed referendum to legalize marijuana. They deserve coal in their stockings.

Nice: The citizens who recognize when principle is at stake and are willing to step forward and stand up to the bullies on Capitol Hill. Those fine Americans deserve sugar plums or some such thing dancing above their heads.

If that weren’t enough, Santa’s got a little more to add on his lists.

Naughty: Those unreconstructed demagogues on the right who slander President Obama as a radical leftist out to destroy capitalism, even though he saved the auto industry, rescued Wall Street and has taken the lead in undermining Vladimir Putin and the Russian economy. Those Obama enemies deserve nothing if for no other reason than their ingratitude.

Naughty: Sony Pictures Entertainment executives who showed their true colors when it comes to race, and the hackers who are waging a cyberattack against the company. This is more of a thought than recognition of the deserving: Put the Sony Pictures execs and the hackers together in a cage and let them have at each other.

Nice: Objective and fearless journalists who bring truth and light to all who would draw near and listen or — as the case may be — read. Shower them fulsomely with your gifts, dear Santa.

Naughty: That Mr. Hyde, allegedly free of conscience, filled with darker impulses, depraved and a defiler of drugged women, known in some quarters as Bill Cosby.

Nice: The sociable, respectable and morally decent Dr. Jekyll, a.k.a. Bill Cosby, said by Camille, his wife of 50 years, to be “a kind man, a generous man, a funny man and a wonderful husband, father and friend.”

(Sorry, but your call, big fella.)

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and to all a good night.

 

By: Colbert King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 19, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Christmas, Naughty and Nice, Santa Claus | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Some Profoundly Un-American Responses”: The False Choice Of Protesting For Justice And Supporting Our Police

I’m one of the millions of New Yorkers who woke up heartbroken today thinking of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos who were shot dead yesterday while sitting in their car in Brooklyn by Ismaaiyl Brinsley.

As the news unfolded, we learned the briefest details of the two men’s lives such as the fact that Liu was married just two months ago, and that Ramos has a wife and a 13 year old son who “couldn’t comprehend what had happened to his father”, according to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio who met with the families before a press conference last night. I offered prayers for the men, and their widows and son.

Liu and Ramos were not the only victims of Brinsley’s deadly rampage yesterday. Earlier that day, the Atlanta resident had allegedly shot his former girlfriend in Maryland, who apparently now is in “serious condition“. After killing the two police officers, Brinsley fled and apparently killed himself in a nearby subway station.

The assassinations come at a particularly tense moment in America. Recent deaths of black citizens at the hands of police in Ferguson, Cleveland and here in New York have sparked protests and calls for investigation of racism within our policing and criminal justice system. I have been part of those protests. One week ago, I was in Washington, D.C. along with thousands of other Americans of all ages, races and religions who came together in peaceful protest and to listen to the mothers and wives of those men whose lives had been lost.

Never once did I hear any suggestion of violence against the police either in the march or from the microphone. The consistent call was to work with our elected officials, courts and police departments to improve our criminal system. The goal of this movement is justice — its means are non-violent, prophetic action. When I heard the news about the Ramos and Liu killings, I prayed that it was not linked in any way to the peaceful protests that I had been a part of.

But horrifically, the assassin made the connection himself.

He wrote on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today, They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMichaelBrown”.

dontrunup

When I saw that I felt sick. And even sicker because the post had 17 Likes, meaning that 17 people read this obviously violent post and supported it and urged him on. And now they have blood on their hands as well.

Unfortunately, the person NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch blamed was not Ismaaiyl Brinsley, or any accomplices that may have known about his alleged intention to kill his ex-girlfriend and two police officers. Instead, he, Pataki, Giuliani and and other pundits declared that the people to blame were Obama, Holder, de Blasio and all those who have been involved in the nation wide protests.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” Lynch said last night, “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.” Lynch went on to blame those who “incited violence on the street under the guise of protest.”

I guess he means me?

The response Lynch and some conservative commentators have had to the horrific killing of these two police officers and the alleged attempt to kill a woman is profoundly un-American. It is meant to chill any criticism or efforts to improve our country and only serves to divide an already deeply divided country and to increase tensions in an already tense time.

Instead of having the deaths of Liu and Ramos further tear us apart, could this serve as a moment of bringing us together? Liu and Ramos are reminders to any who would demonize the police, that our law enforcement is made up of people of all races and backgrounds, who have families and who feel called to this duty to protect and serve.

The families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown were among the first to condemn the killing of Ramos and Liu last night. The protests around the #BlackLivesMatter movement was never against the police, but it was a call to acknowledge that we can do better as a society that continues to bear the scars of racism.

That effort must continue; we can and must do better as a nation. But it will only be successful if everyone comes together and recognizes one another as human beings, deserving of respect, dignity and life.

Instead of pitting the deaths of Liu and Ramos against Garner and Brown, we can join them together, understanding them as martyrs who inspire us on both sides of the blue line to work for a more just, safe and united America.

 

By: Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor, The Huffington Post, December 21, 2014

 

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Rights, Law Enforcement, NYPD | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Justice Must Satisfy The Appearance Of Justice”: The System Must Counteract Prosecutors’ Natural Sympathies For Cops

“Justice must satisfy the appearance of justice,” Felix Frankfurter wrote, in a Supreme Court case 60 years ago.

That edict — a foundation of democracy — has not been observed in some recent high-profile cases in which grand juries have refused to indict police officers for killing unarmed African-Americans. The resulting injury is not just to criminal justice but to the legitimacy of the government itself.

As a former prosecutor let me put this as directly as possible: Blame the prosecutors, not the grand jurors. There is one reason that Daniel Pantaleo is not being charged in the death of Eric Garner. It’s because District Attorney Dan Donovan of Staten Island did not want him to be.

Why not? The cynical point of view is that Donovan was playing to his base. Staten Island is the whitest and most conservative borough in New York. It’s also home for many cops. Maybe Donovan figured he would take heat however the grand jury came out, but the people who would be protesting in the street in the event of no indictment did not include most of his electorate.

But there is a more benign explanation. Maybe Donovan just appreciates that cops have one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and so, he cuts them some slack. It’s a very human reaction.

I speak from whence I know. One reason I became a prosecutor is that I had a number of bad experiences with the police where they racially profiled or just generally disrespected me. I thought I could go in as an undercover brother and change the system from the inside. What happened instead is that the system changed me.

When you work with cops every day you definitely gain more respect for their difficult work. And you need them to help you make your cases (every prosecutor has experienced having a police officer catch an attitude, sometimes in the middle of a trial, and purposely ruin your case because they don’t like you).

And finally policing is like most other employment — a few people do most of the work. So prosecutors see the same cops over and over, and they bond with them. It’s not so much that they excuse egregious misconduct as that they cast a blind eye. Nothing irks a cop more than an elitist prosecutor treating him or her like “some suspect.”

So the problem stems from the culture of the prosecutor’s office, compounded by the fact that, like most lawyers, prosecutors are competitive and ambitious and the way you move ahead is to win your cases, and the way you win cases is get your star witnesses — the cops — to go the extra mile. All that makes it really tough to try to send one of them to prison — even when they have messed up big time, as I believe Pantaleo did when he placed Eric Garner in a banned chokehold.

In a democracy, no one should be above the law. It’s fine for citizens to profoundly respect the men and women who serve as law enforcement officers. But when those people break the law, they must be held accountable just like anyone else. The automatic appointment of special prosecutors in criminal investigations of police is the best way to avoid district attorneys’ natural biases and make sure that justice satisfies the appearance of justice.

 

By: Paul Butler, Former Prosecutor and a Professor at Georgetown University Law Center; The Opinion Pages, Room for Debate, The New York Times, December 4, 2014

 

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Democracy, District Attorney's | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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