Perhaps this is why we can’t get anything done about gun violence?
Category Archives: Gun Issues
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:
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.)
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.
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]
“A House panel on Thursday rejected multiple efforts by Democrats to eliminate a budget amendment that has frozen nearly all government research into gun violence for 17 years.
During a markup of next year’s health spending bill, Republicans blocked two amendments that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study gun-related deaths. Neither had a recorded vote.
Eliminating the provision has become a priority for Democrats since the June 12 attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people — the nation’s deadliest mass shooting.
The provision, known as the Dickey Amendment for former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), was first enacted in 1996 after groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA) accused federal agencies of trying to advance gun control.” [The Hill]
Nevada Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is a member of the House Appropriations Committee but is not a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and related agencies.
So, how many ways can the House GOP find to waste taxpayer money? Let’s start with the House Oversight Committee which wasn’t pleased with the FBI’s conclusions on their manufactured outrage narrative concerning Secretary Clinton’s emails – now they want to haul the FBI director in for a grilling. [TPM] However, this is only the latest.
Meanwhile, it’s estimated by the Department of Agriculture that 15.3 million children in the United States under the age of 18 live in homes where they don’t have consist access to enough nutritious food to sustain a health life. [FA.org]
It was reported yesterday that House leadership was meeting to discuss whether to launch a formal investigation into the sit-in staged by House Democrats over the failure of the leadership to bring a gun safety bill to the House floor. [TPM]
Meanwhile, every day 7 children in the United States die in gun violence, and another 41 survive being shot in assaults (31), suicide attempts (1), and accidental shootings (8). [BC.org]
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) continues to pump for more investigations into … Planned Parenthood. Who would have guessed? Not that the committee hasn’t soaked up some 80% of the supplemental funds for the House Administration Committee, that would be $790,000. [Esq]
Meanwhile, the CDC reports that between 2011-2014 the prevalence of children with obesity aged 2-5 yrs. was 8.9%, 17.5% among children between the ages of 6 and 11; and, 20.5% among adolescents aged 12 to 19. [CDC pdf]
The House Republicans racked up approximately $7,000,000 in expenses for its interminable Benghazi hearings. [BBN] The State Department spent about $14,000,000 trying to process and present information requested by the Committee, the Pentagon reported about $2 million in expenses associated with the “investigations.”
Meanwhile, when the FAST Act expires at the end of FY 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projects the average annual shortfall to the federal Highway Trust Fund will grow to $16 billion, [TRIP scrib] and we have a backlog of pavement projects of about $59 billion, and another $30 billion needed to improve and maintain bridges. This isn’t even county the $100 billion we need for highway system expansion and enhancement. [TRIP scrib]
Is it not reasonable to conclude that the House GOP is far more interested in political scandal mongering than it is in … investigating why 15.3 million children aren’t getting enough nutritious food to eat? Or, why 20% of our teenagers are suffering the health effects of obesity? Or, why we’re losing 7 children every day to gun violence? Or, why we’re only spending 61% of what we should be allocating to the repair and maintenance of our national highway system?
Is there to be no investigation into why there isn’t adequate affordable housing in one single county in the entire United States? [Fortune] Why aren’t members of the Congressional leadership interested in hearing why the gender pay gap is the widest for blue collar women? [Detroit News]
Instead, the House GOP seems entangled in the past, engaged in corybantic fits of furor over all but imaginary “threats” while veritably ignoring the very real economic, health, educational, infrastructure, and commercial interests of this country. A person can reside in the past only so long as the future doesn’t catch up.
The photos of the victims of mass killings in this country show the faces of America. White, black, brown, gay, straight, men, and women. From the very young to the elderly. And they all died too soon at the hands of those who could arm themselves with lethal weapons without any inconvenience.
The 2nd Amendment says we all have the right to keep and bear arms … there is NO mention in the Amendment that purchasing firearms has to be “convenient.”
The gun fetishists among us cry that their “rights are infringed” if they are to be inconvenienced in any way when purchasing or procuring lethal weapons. They cite their imaginary well greased slippery slope to full tilt gun control.
And, lo! cry the fetishists and their allies, any imposition of a burden of responsibility is a denial of our civil liberties. But, wait a minute. It is inconvenient to register to vote – however, that’s the inconvenience we accept to prevent voter impersonation. It’s inconvenient to edit and fact check news articles – but that’s the inconvenience we accept as part of the freedom of the press to avoid charges of libel.
It is inconvenient for government officials to get search warrants, but that’s the balance we have to prevent unlawful searches and seizures. It’s inconvenient for the judicial system that a person may not be compelled to testify against himself – but that’s the inconvenience we accept to make the system work under constitutional principles.
How easy it appears to be to have advocates of the implementation of the Patriot Act speaking of national surveillance, and justifying those National Security Letters, while bemoaning the restrictions on those included on the terrorist watch list who seek to purchase lethal weapons.
If we didn’t infer “convenience” in the 2nd Amendment, then might we have fewer suicides, fewer murders, fewer mass shootings and killings. Fewer funerals, fewer remembrances, fewer tragedies, and a much safer society?