Email Items for Uncle Fester: Officer Down Edition

Cops killed by firearms chart The chart above shows firearm related deaths of police officers and law enforcement personnel since 2005. [FactCheck.org]

This chart shows police fatalities by administration:

Cop fatalities by adminstration [Link here]

There is possibly no way Uncle Fester, that Right Wing Loon at the Thanksgiving Dinner assembly, is going to believe his own lying eyes. However, that doesn’t mean his inbox should be immune from a few bits of factual matter.

We all know by now that the Uncle Festers of the world aren’t moved by facts, data, peer reviewed statistics, or logical arguments.  If they were they’d not be saying things like: “My great-grandparents didn’t come to this country to have their descendents shoved out of jobs by immigrants.” (A debunked tweet now picked up and repeated by Trump followers and detractors alike.)

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King, Holtz, and the GOP Trumpster Fire

Dumpster Fire 1

Sometimes we just have to assume people are simply telling us who they really are.  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is just such a person, a person who started a small brush fire during the GOP’s Trumpster Fire with his comments about Western Civilization. [DesMReg]  The response, of course was full and fast. [Salon] [Time]  However, King’s own response was also instructive.

“Following his controversial remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday, Iowa’s Steve King defended his comments Tuesday, saying “somebody needs to stand up for the contributions that have been made by Western civilization.” [DesMReg]

Now having put his foot in it, this is the longer version of his “explanation:”

“Rep. Steve King attempted to clarify the controversial comments he made Monday afternoon about “white people” doing more for civilization than any other “subgroup” during an interview with ABC News later that night, stating he meant “Western civilization,” not “white people.”

“What I really said was ‘Western civilization,’ and when you describe Western civilization that can mean much of Western civilization happens to be Caucasians. But we should not apologize for our culture or our civilization,” said King.

“The contributions that were made by Western civilization itself, and by Americans, by Americans of all races stand far above the rest of the world. The Western civilization and the American civilization are a superior culture.” [Variety]

For a non-apology apology this is classic. Nor does this take the White Supremacy out of the mix simply by generalizing beyond “white people.”

We could lecture Representative King from now until the end of time about the scientific advances of the Egyptians, the mathematical contributions of the Hindus and Arabs, the 75,000 year history of art in Africa,  the preservation of Aristotle’s work by Muslim scholars…. We could but it might be a waste of time.

He still doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with a Confederate States of America flag on his desk, or his bill to keep Harriet Tubman off our currency, or with comparing Mexican immigrants with livestock, or the college bound children of immigrants with pot smugglers, or opining that we shouldn’t have to provide translators…

This district has elected him to Congress six times now. In this district with  121,925 active registered Democrats, 191,308 active registered Republicans, and another 162,432 registered non-partisan voters [IAsos pdf] King must be saying something someone likes?  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that King’s message aligns with the demographics – of a total population of 758,690 an estimated 708,907 are white; only 9,489 are African American; 14,535 are Asian, and Native Americans count for 4,249 of the total. Hispanics make up 49,204 of the total. [Census] King’s district is  93.44% white.  Why would he feel the need to appreciate the meaning of the battle flag? The importance of Harriet Tubman’s contributions?  The Chinese inventors of paper?

King’s not too far removed from another source of national embarrassment, former coach Lou Holtz:

Speaking at a luncheon the Republican National Coalition for Life hosted during the RNC to honor Phyllis Schlafly, Holtz said the high number of immigrants coming to the U.S. constitutes an “invasion.” And he said new immigrants need to assimilate better. Holtz added that his grandparents learned English after immigrating to the U.S. from Ukraine, and insisted his family learn it as well. New immigrants to this country, he continued, need to learn and speak English and “become us.”

“I don’t want to become you,” he continued. “I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!” [TDB]

There’s nothing terribly new about this terrible expression of negative sentiments.  It’s factually inaccurate, sociologically inaccurate, and patently bigoted.  The most significant portion comes at the end, “I don’t want to become you…”

We might translate this in a number of ways, but the first coming to mind is “I don’t want the white dominant culture in this country to become contaminated with foreign language, foreign holidays, and foreign entertainment.”   If true, then Holtz may want to stop using terms that very possibly started as Irish street slang in NYC — “stiff,” “Gee Whiz,” “ballyhoo,,” “swank,” or “snooty.” [IC.com]  Nor can he speak of a “glitch,” “chutzpah,” “kibitzing,” or even a “tush,” without speaking Yiddish. [List]

Holtz and his ilk, do not, and possibly will not, comprehend that the language they are speaking with such pride is, itself, a mixture of appropriated verbiage from “abandon” (French) to “moccasin” (Algonquian) to “zenith” (Arabic).  Further, Holtz may be concerned that a local retailer could be mounting a Cinco de Mayo Sale Extravaganza – it’s reasonable to assume the local retailer isn’t a bit worried about cultural implications, just whether or not the sales figures are positive.

Does he object to Mardi Gras in New Orleans because it’s of early 18th century French origins in that city?  St. Patrick’s Day celebrations? At Notre Dame?  It appears as though Holtz isn’t so much affected by the foreign origins of American holidays as he is by the prospect of NEW American holidays being added to the already crowded calendar of when we “go retailing,” or have another excuse to fire up the barbeque grill.

King and Holtz are kindred, and uncomfortable, spirits.  The new and the unfamiliar are vacuumed up into the “foreign” category to be disparaged because they are not understood.  They also give every appearance of having it backwards – cultures do not die if they are dynamic and growing, they desiccate and die off if they do not.

Robert F. Kennedy summed them up:

“There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed.”

And, now we have an entire convention devoted to them in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Immigration Facts over Fear-mongering

Immigration Facts poster

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July 19, 2016 · 2:34 pm

1856 Know Nothing Party Platform

Know Nothing Platform When the 2016 Republicans get finished with their WhiteFest National Convention, we might want to compare their product with the statement of principles of the 1856 “American” or Know Nothing Party:

“(1) Repeal of all Naturalization Laws.
(2) None but Americans for office.
(3) A pure American Common School system.
(4) War to the hilt, on political Romanism.
(5) Opposition to the formation of Military Companies, composed of Foreigners.
(6) The advocacy of a sound, healthy and safe Nationality.
(7) Hostility to all Papal influences, when brought to bear against the Republic.
(8) American Constitutions & American sentiments.
(9) More stringent & effective Emigration Laws.
(10) The amplest protection to Protestant Interests.
(11) The doctrines of the revered Washington.
(12) The sending back of all foreign paupers.
(13) Formation of societies to protect American interests.
(14) Eternal enmity to all those who attempt to carry out the principles of a foreign Church or State.
(15) Our Country, our whole Country, and nothing but our Country.
(16) Finally,-American Laws, and American legislation; and death to all foreign influences, whether in high places or low!”

[source, document Duke U. Library]

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Unsolicited Advice for a Police Union

Rockwell cops I write this from the perspective of a former public sector union member and officer. I write this without rancor for other public section union members and their officials, but I write this because there is a difficult line to walk between protecting the interests of the membership and drawing lines between the members and the communities they serve.  Once those lines are drawn they are very difficult to erase.

There is always a temptation on the union side of the ledger to focus  on protecting the individual member from disciplinary actions, from demotions, involuntary transfers, dismissals, or refusals to re-employ.  That’s part of the job.  However, some disciplinary actions are both appropriate to the situation and often inevitable. Therefore, the focus of the union representatives is more productive in the long run if the philosophy is to protect the due process rights of the member, and the provisions of the master contract.  Put ever so much more bluntly, there are times when it’s necessary to tell a member, “I’m here to help you offer the best defense you can, if you can dream one up.”  

What is not helpful is to operate on the assumption that every member (or non-member in some instances) is worthy of full throated public support.  Nor is it helpful to assume that criticism of one, or a few, is necessarily criticism and vilification for all.    Yet, that seems to be the standard operation in a few high profile union/community examples.

“The St Louis Police Officers Association claimed that officers found the actions of (St. Louis Rams) Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Tre Mason to be “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory”, and demanded that they be disciplined.

Five of the players emerged for their game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday with their hands aloft, a gesture used by protesters who claim that Brown was surrendering when he was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson on 9 August. Last week a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.” [Guardian] December 1, 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, aviation employees, letter carriers, and state and municipal employees were respected for the countless hours of service they provide?  If everyone understood that first responder vocations are of paramount importance? If everyone understood that teaching and nursing are high stress occupations with long hours and little overtime?  However, respect doesn’t necessarily indicate adoration, reverence, and exaltation.   Further, demanding veneration means there will be higher standards applied to the members of the organization.  The old line applies: If you want to be respected do your job; if you want to be worshipped you have to do your job perfectly.

Mix a bit of racial tension into this toxic stew and there’s a recipe for unhelpful recrimination.  

“Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, blasted de Blasio for his inflammatory remarks, which followed Wednesday’s decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict cop Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference was that they were thrown under the bus,” Lynch said.

De Blasio had called the Garner case “profoundly personal for me,” saying that because of “the dangers [Dante] may face, we’ve had to literally train him . . . in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” [NYPost] December 4, 2015

That a father would have The Talk with his son about interactions with police officers is common in the African American community.  I have yet to meet an African American who hasn’t been followed in a department store at least once, or hasn’t had The Talk with a son, grandson, or nephew.  Yes, The Talk implies a negative perception of the police, but an essential part of The Talk is to show respect for the officer and the directions given.  No one is getting tossed under the wheels of any imaginary bus – this is simply generational wisdom passed along regarding how to cope with some people in authority.  There are also  Talks about how to cope with cranky teachers, or how to behave in a department store.  These same talks are replicated in the white community, although without the sense of urgency and fear.  “Respect your teachers, respect police officers, keep you nose clean and mind your manners.”  Aren’t those things what we want all kids to do?

When the dust settles, let it settle. The outcome of mediation, arbitration, or litigation may not be the desired outcome for the union, but once it’s done it should probably “stay done.”  Such as in the case of the Eric Garner settlement in New York:

“Sergeants Benevolent Association head Ed Mullins, meanwhile, had a different take. In an interview with the NY Post (who else?), Mullins described the settlement as “obscene” and “shameful,” asking the tabloid’s readers, “Where is the justice for New York taxpayers? Where is the consistency in the civil system? In my view, the city has chosen to abandon its fiscal responsibility to all of its citizens and genuflect to the select few who curry favor with the city government.” [Translation: AL SHARPTON AL SHARPTON AL SHARPTON.] [Also: AL SHARPTON.]

“Mr. Garner’s family should not be rewarded simply because he repeatedly chose to break the law and resist arrest,” Mullins concluded. (Police claim Garner had been selling loose cigarettes outside a Staten Island deli when officers approached him.)” [Gothamist]  July 14, 2015

Or, in the case of Tamir Rice’s family in Cleveland:

“The head of the Cleveland rank-and-file police union says the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the use of look-alike firearms.

Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association association, was criticized on a national scale for statements he made to the media in the weeks and months after two officers in his union were involved in Tamir’s death.” [Cleveland PDealer] April 25, 2016

When enough has been said, enough has been said.  Until it happens again —

“Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.  Lynx players did not wear T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio.

“The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers,” the team said in a statement. “While our players message mourned the loss of life due to last week’s shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. … We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.” [MSTrib]

[…]

“Kroll (Minneapolis Police Federation) criticized Lynx players, citing the “false narratives” in the past two years in which some allegations of police misconduct in the killing of black people were refuted. “Rushing to judgment  Police sign up for off-duty jobs to work Lynx games, Kroll said. “They can start or stop a job whenever they want,” he said. “They are working on an independent contract.”

Asked about a report that seven or eight officers had walked off the job, Kroll said, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.” [MSTrib]

Here we go again.  Lt. Bob Kroll commends the officers for walking off, and then slathers on a bit of misogyny about the “pathetic draw.”  Putting distance between your union and your community doesn’t serve most positive purposes – in terms of  issues both philosophical and practical.

On a philosophical level, if we assume  there is already a divide between the African American community and the police – how does walking away from a potential opportunity for “constructive discussion” help anyone? What of, “I protect and defend your rights, including freedom of speech, until you say something I find offensive?” From a practical standpoint, the Lynx organization already hires private security; does it help other police officers trying to earn  extra pay if they are perceived as potential ‘walk outs’ should they be in any way offended by players’ statements?   The police chief tried to tamp down the rhetoric:

“Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear,” she said. “While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now.” [MSTrib]

Here’s a thought: When the employer is trying to smooth the waters for the union, there’s a possible need to curtail wave making actions.  There are already calls for the privatization of police  [HuffPo] popular in some libertarian quarters, and touted as a ‘solution’ to police/community relations.  If your opponent wants to make a cudgel, refrain from handing him a tree branch.   Or a tree trunk, as in Denver:

“It’s only natural that some police departments reassess how they handle protests after the terrible shootings in Dallas last week that left five officers dead. But the demand by the Denver police union in the wake of the tragedy that local cops wear riot gear during protests was truculent and out of line.

The union has been pushing for the use of riot gear at protests for two years, ever since demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., spread across the country. But the tone adopted by Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, in a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock and police Chief Robert White, was rude and combative, while some of its factual content was questionable.

Basically, Rogers warned those two officials that if any officer not wearing riot gear is injured during a protest, the union will attempt to hold them personally liable, citing federal court decisions that “officials can be liable for the acts of third parties where those officials ‘created the danger’ that caused the harm.” Presumably he means the union will sue the mayor and chief in an effort to blame them.” [DenverPost]

There’s also something to be said for an employer who is trying to maintain the public image of police as public servants and not an armed militia out to suppress citizens, some of whom are already reluctant to give the police the benefit of the doubt.

Highly publicized emotional comments in highly volatile times, too often made from intransigent positions predicated on “us vs. them,” may garner approval from some quarters but approbation from others.   It’s best to function from the position that there are those who will always be in support no matter what the issue; however, it’s the increasing level of approbation which ought to be of primary concern.  Listening to supporters is always comforting; listening to the adversaries is always necessary.  On a more tangible level one thing the police unions would do well to avoid is the perception (now conveniently applied to public school teachers) that the union will protect the “bad apples.”

The recent devolution of respect for the teaching profession includes the argument that “schools are bad, they are bad because of bad teachers, and unions are bad because they protect those bad teachers.”  That none of this makes any sense isn’t the point. We certainly don’t need for some elements in the political spectrum to start arguing that “policing is bad, it’s bad because of bad officers, and the unions are bad because they protect those bad officers.”  Once this contamination spreads it’s more difficult to resist the privatization proponents.

If the perspective is truly to defend the due process rights of police officers, and to protect the provisions of the master contracts, then it’s much easier to defuse confrontations.  Due process and contractual elements aren’t personal.  Personalizing them adds emotion, emotion reduces discourse, and reduced discourse increases confrontations.  Negotiations are rarely improved by adding confrontation into the milieu. There is, indeed, a time for more collaboration and less conflict.

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Police Accountability: No one model and no single system

Crime Scene Tape

There was a meeting in Reno, NV between members of the community, representatives of Black Lives Matter, and law enforcement officers. That’s good. [RGJ]  It’s a start. Or, to put it another way it’s another step on a path forward which has the tortuous feel of a mountain trail with numerous cut backs.  We might be able to more fully address the issues related to policing our communities if we’d take some additional topics into consideration.

One of the most obvious topics is the use of force, in perhaps too many cases deadly force, and how police officers may be held accountable in controversial situations.  The importance of Tennessee v. Garner can’t be overestimated, and further, administrative and legal cases do seem to have an effect on policing policies and practices. [Hudson] However, public perception is also related to faith in the system, and the system is fragmented.

In Nevada, for example, how a citizen can report instances of police misconduct varies with each jurisdiction, and sometimes within a single metropolitan area.  Reporting a favorable comment about policing is very easy in Reno.  There’s a website form for that.  Reporting an instance of possible police misconduct isn’t as simple.  Reno, Washoe County, and Carson City each have their own process and requirements for filing an allegation of misconduct. [ACLU]  There are four ways to file a complaint in Reno, three ways in Washoe County, and only one way (in person) in Carson City.   The report information goes to the Internal Affairs Office in Reno, passes to the Sheriff’s office in Carson City, and through the Sheriff’s office in Washoe County.

The Accountability process is also a matter of local jurisdiction. There is a local Review Board in Las Vegas, which while it does have some investigative powers is confined to making recommendations only.  Even this improvement met with a critique from the Justice Department in a 2012 investigation:

“Metro’s Use of Force Review Board — currently a mix of residents and department personnel — needs revamping because of procedures the COPS Office found “outdated and insufficient.” To remedy the situation, the report recommends Metro create a stand-alone manual for the board, which would outline its purpose, operating procedures and clarify roles of the board’s members.” [LVSun] [DoJ] [DoJ Report pdf]

This wasn’t all the Department of Justice had to say on the matter in October 2012.   The report found that the Coroner’s inquest process related to the review of the use of deadly force was ineffective at the time. The District Attorney’s office needed more training and expertise related to investigating deadly force incidents, and while the Clark County DA had begun to review officer involved lethal shootings, and to issue decision letters, there were no letters for serious, non-fatal use of force incidents. [DoJ Report pdf]  The current accountability public perceptions may rest on how much progress has been made since the 2012 recommendations, and on the application of the review processes in the context of Nevada statutes on police use of force.

The public is beginning to perceive that investigations of police officers are quite different from those a private citizen can expect.  For example, in Las Vegas the officer will receive a 48 hour notice before an interview, and even if that notice requirement is waived it must be approved by the association.  Additionally, the officer will be provided with ALL evidence during an interrogation to facilitate correcting “inconsistencies.”  There are also contractual provisions allowing an officer terminated as a result of an investigation 30 days to appeal and to enter into binding arbitration. Written reprimands will be removed from the officer’s personnel file after 18 months; minor suspensions after 3 years, and major suspensions after 5 years.  There is to be no retention of investigation records in which the officer is exonerated, or the allegations are held to be unfounded, or un-sustained.   The contract in Las Vegas is about “average” in its provisions for police protection, with the major exception that the city is not exclusively liable for civil actions related to the incident.

There are some jurisdictions in which an officer cannot be interrogated for more than 6 hours in a given session, and may not be threatened with vile language or threats of demotion, transfer, or termination of employment. (Fort Worth)  Louisville, KY allows no threats, coercion, or promises made during an interrogation, and St. Petersburg, FL allows only one interrogation session.  [CTP interactive]

“Public Employee and Public Ideology” issues are also entangled in these topics.  There are some conservative voices only too pleased to blame teachers’ unions, for example, for allowing the retention of “bad apples.” However, these voices are strangely silent when the subject of police unions comes to the fore.  It is in no one’s best interest when any public employee is subjected to discriminatory, capricious, or arbitrary treatment regarding his or her demotion, dismissal, or refusal of re-employment.  However, when other public employees are alleged to have been responsible for the death or physical injury of another the notice and the interrogation limitations are not available to them, nor are the requirements that they have access to all the evidence collected prior to the interrogation.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

That there is no single model and no single unifying concepts for police accountability means that each jurisdiction is left to its own devices to cope with community and police relations.  Some, like the Dallas PD, have done a better job than others, such as Baton Rouge and Ferguson, MO.

Perhaps we’d be well served to think outside the dotted lines at some tangential issues which exacerbate the situations in which both law enforcement and community members find themselves.  Let’s start with what is likely to be one of the most obvious.

Racism.  Could we at least recognize that it exists? Could we at least acknowledge that it informs some actions that are not necessarily overt? Remember the African American college student who was arrested in NYC for buying a belt the clerk and officers said he couldn’t possibly afford, and concluded that he’d thereby committed fraud? [HuffPo]  Or, the African American actor who was arrested for buying his mother a $1,350 watch, as a present for her college graduation? [DNAinfo]  These are simply more high profile illustrations of the problem as related by one of the participants in the Reno meeting:

“Don Dike-Anukam said he was glad he attended Sunday’s event and hopes others will consider what life is like when “the shoe is on the other foot.”

“It’s hard to explain to people who never had to literally prepare for a police stop or have been followed in a supermarket when you’ve done nothing wrong or know what it’s like to have that feeling of suspicion and done nothing wrong,” Dike-Anukam said. “It makes you a little angry and annoyed inside and sad at the same time.” [RGJ]

Combining racism and fear is a truly toxic mix. What of the police officer  knowing that he is dealing with a white person in a traffic stop who may be armed, and feels less insecure? Or, more insecure if the person in Black? Is the white citizen more innocent until proven guilty, or the Black citizen guilty until proven innocent?

Police as collection agents. One of the things that precipitated the mess in Ferguson, MO was the use of the police department as a collection agency in an effort to bolster the town budget.  In 2010 the Ferguson police department generated $1.4 million for the county treasury, almost 25% of the city’s $13 million budget. [RS]  To put the issue more bluntly:

“…when budgetary whims replace peacekeeping as the central motivation of law enforcement, who is more likely to write up more tickets, the good cop or the crummy one? When the mission of the entire department shifts from “protect and serve” to “punish and profit,” then just what constitutes good police?” [MJ]

Most of the incidents that initiated the current turmoil began as traffic stops and other very minor items in the grand scheme of things.  We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask how many of these stops were associated with increasing revenues for local governments? With fulfilling quotas of some kind? With “keeping the numbers up?”  None of this having much to do with good police work.

Police Training. Now, if we combine racism and revenue generation, then why are we surprised when minor incidents become major news?  One element which seems to need further discussion is the addition of de-escalation policies and training for police officers.

In March 2016, the Los Angeles Police Commission voted to implement a use of force policy emphasizing de-escalation and the use of minimal force in encounters with the general public. [LAcbs]

“One of the recommendations suggests the LAPD’s use-of-force policy be revised “to emphasize that deadly force shall only be exercised when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or appear impracticable.

The revision in policy will also establish the expectation that officers redeploy to a position of tactical advantage when faced with a threat, whenever such redeployment can be reasonably accomplished in a manner consistent with officer and public safety.” [LAcbs]

Unfortunately, the police union doesn’t seem to be on board:

“Clearly this is not a collaborative process by the Police Commission,” he said. “We are very concerned that the recommendations as written may jeopardize officer and community safety. We’re afraid that this policy does not take into account the split-second, life-and-death decisions police officers must make in the field.”

An internal LAPD report was released earlier this month that found LAPD officers used force nearly 2,000 times last year, including 21 cases in which people were fatally shot. More than one-third of the 38 people who were shot by police were mentally ill. [LAcbs]

However, making those decisions is a function of training and experience, and if the training includes how to de-escalate a volatile situation then both the safety of the officer and the safety of the citizen could be improved.  It hardly seems fair to criticize an officer when the predominance of his or her training is consumed in fire arms training, and then complain when the person shoots first and faces the questions later.

Guns. Eventually it all comes back to guns.   Now, there’s research reported on the subject:

“The results were shocking: line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with the low gun ownership states. Between 1996 and 2010, in other words, there were 0.31 officer fatalities for every 10,000 employed officers in low gun ownership states. But there were 0.95 fatalities per 10,000 officers in the high gun ownership states.” [WaPo]

Law enforcement officers “working in states with higher levels of gun ownership faced a greater likelihood of being shot and killed on the job compared with their peers in states with lower gun ownership,” the study concludes. The relationship was strong enough that every 10 percent increase in gun ownership correlated with 10 more officer deaths over the study period. [WaPo]

If we’re truly interested in the safety of our law enforcement personnel then we have to address what’s killing them. Guns.

This partial list of “Things To Think About” is a heaping portion of problems on our collective plate.  None of these discussion will be easy, or simple, or without rancor.  However, I don’t think that we can afford to ignore any of the elements.   Those who refuse to consider the possibility that there are problems in our contemporary system will not be convinced there is a necessity to address these topics; those who do should take heart that communities around the country, like Reno, are at least beginning the discussion.

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Filed under civil liberties, Gun Issues, Las Vegas, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, public safety, violence

Please Stop Making Excuses

Remember back in the day when Granny quoted Benjamin Franklin for the umpteenth time, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else?”   If any positive commentary has come from this miserable week in America it’s that at least no one is trying to excuse the assassination of police officers in Dallas, TX.  But heaven knows there are enough other excuses floating about.

There is no excuse for the perpetuation of a system in which members of minority groups and ethnicities are subjected to lower standards of service and respect.  Let’s look carefully at some of the excuses.

## Consider this commentary from a right wing writer:

“When communists, anarchists and other left-wing rabble-rousers march through the streets of New York City chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops,” and, “When do we want it? Right now,” they aren’t merely attacking that thin blue line that has sworn to defend us; they are, in fact, trying to topple our very form of government.

When they block our streets, disrupt our stores and hurl epithets (and worse) at those who have sworn to protect us, they aren’t merely trying to protest a grand jury decision they didn’t like; no, their real goal is to make clear their utter disdain for the country that grants them the freedom to flout our laws and traditions.”

The essential premise is that the present system, including policing practices, is perfectly acceptable and any attempt to criticize the white controlled power structure must be done in dulcet tones with tea room manners.  Otherwise, it is to be condemned as the object of “communists, anarchists, and other left wing rabble.”  Yes, this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack meant to excuse or temporize the actions of a small minority of law enforcement personnel who should really consider another occupation.   This form of excuse making utterly ignores the reality that no one is calling for “toppling” the government – the purpose is to make the government more responsive to and respectful of the lives of ALL citizens.

## And then there’s the now infamous excuse making by a former New York City mayor:

“When you say ‘black lives matter,’ that’s inherently racist,” the ex-mayor said. “Black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.” [NYDN]

Are we supposed to excuse the excesses by blaming the victims?  The former mayor seems to have truncated the expression “Black Lives Matter” and attached to it the prefix “only.”  The people attaching the prefix are those who excuse their opposition to even listening to the protesters (much less acting on their demands) by saying in essence, “I’m white and any attack on MY government or its officials must be racist.”  This argument is best explicated in this essay in response to a sophomoric complaint about an instructor’s t-shirt.   How about if we made the signs less succinct and said, “Black lives matter as much as everyone else’s.”  They don’t matter more than other lives, and they certainly shouldn’t any matter less. Again, there is no excuse for making anyone subject to a standard other than equal before the law.

## Riffing off Black Lives Matter and creating Blue Lives Matter isn’t helpful to either the African American community or the police because it too often seeks to excuse excesses by replacing Black with Blue and subverting the message that all lives should be valued equally.   There is no analogous history of blue lives being under extra scrutiny in their neighborhoods, placed under arrest more often than others, and being perceived as guilty until proven innocent.   However, in the wake of the assassination of two Las Vegas police officers by right wing morons who draped anti-government flags over them there is a need to protect blue lives …. as if they were white, or black, or Hispanic, or Asian… [See also HuffPo]

## A corollary to this comes in the form of the FOP request for a hate crime investigation into the assassination of the Dallas police officers. [NPR] Indeed, an expression, if verified, that the shooter wanted to kill white officers would constitute a motive based in hate.  However, a ‘blue lives matter bill’ is essentially grandstanding.  If the killing is predicated on racial bias then we already have laws on the books for that.  In fact, Nevada is rather specific about aggravating circumstances in seeking the death penalty if:

The murder was committed upon a peace officer or fireman or an employee of the Department of Corrections who does not exercise general control over offenders imprisoned within the institutions and facilities of the Department, but whose normal duties require him to come into contact with those offenders when carrying out duties prescribed by the Director of the Department. And the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a peace officer or fireman. [DP.org]

In short, there are already statutes granting extra consideration if a first responder is the victim, why adding the category of “hate crime” isn’t superfluous needs to be explained.

## A more subtle form of excusing the perpetrators of excessive force is the media tendency to report on the demerits of the victims.  Cases to the point: (1) Where were the calls to find out how the Charleston, SC church assassin was ‘radicalized?’ Not that we didn’t  have a pretty good idea already – shady and disgusting white supremacist sites – but exactly where did he find those writings which ‘inspired’ his hatred? Who wrote them? What else have they written?  What threat do they pose to the security of our nation?  (2)  Should a person end up dead on a sidewalk after a traffic stop why should I know  they have accumulated a handful of misdemeanor arrests, or owe court administrative fees?  Does this excuse the actions which might be adjudicated as excessive force?

The time has come to put away the excuses, warehouse the rationales, and listen.

“Condemning a culture is not inciting hate. That is very important. Yet black people will continue to die at the hands of cops as long as we deny that whiteness can be more important in explaining those cops’ behavior than anything else.”  [Michael Eric Dyson]

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