My Photo

« Hindsight about foresight | Main | Senate Intelligence Committee Report »

December 05, 2014

Comments

any officer who is involved in a "police-involved death" loses the right to carry a weapon

Well, I'll join with the conservatives who got riled up. I don't think it's a reasonable idea, and I'm not sure it addresses the problem very well.

Police have to be able to use force sometimes, and I don't want someone's career essentially ended because of a justifiable action. There are lunatics out there.

I have no particular knowledge of police work. I do think that many problems in other areas that are initially seen as some sort of human error turn out to be system failures as much as anything. Change the system and much of the error goes away.

How to change it? Well, demilitarize for one thing. Have police killings investigated by outside authority. Beyond that, I don't have a lot of ideas that I can strongly argue for. Body cameras seem like a good idea. And there are probably changes in training and methods that would help. I'd guess that's where the money is. Emphasis on "guess."

"it's less like "a few bad apples in the barrel" and more like "a few ounces of poison in the wine". "

I think TNC analogized it to (something like) being told that the rat you saw in the restaurant you were eating at was the only one.

I think TNC analogized it to (something like) being told that the rat you saw in the restaurant you were eating at was the only one.

Other than the one you were eating.

Agree with byomtov; The police are killing too many people, but we don't want a cop punished for justifiably killing somebody.

Barring from the police force anybody who ever enjoyed watching "Cops" might be productive, too; Was there even one episode of that show that didn't involve abusive levels of force?

byomtov:

I don't want someone's career essentially ended because of a justifiable action. There are lunatics out there.

I'm not saying that their career should be *ended*, but I think it should be *altered*.

Killing a person is a catastrophic act -- at least for them and their family and friends, and very frequently for the wider community. It should be felt as a catastrophic failure by the police, also, and I don't know how it can be *felt* seriously unless it is *experienced* seriously, unless it has serious consequences.

I'm sure that when you say "there are lunatics out there" you don't *really* mean that police killings of the mentally ill are justified -- but that's what it *sounds* like. Even when someone is having a violent psychotic break, police can learn to control them without violence.

Yes, police officers will occasionally find themselves facing very dangerous people. But even if it's the right thing to do, killing them should still hurt the police, just as it hurts the citizenry.

Also, if the consequences are automatic, regardless of justification, it will reduce the litigation -- and the community anger -- surrounding police-involved deaths.

If I were a politician, I'd even market it as a "pro-life" stance: making sure that death *always* matters, that *everyone's* life is sacred.

The big cultural problem is grounded in a pretty simple piece of arithmetic: Private citizens are much more of a threat to the police than the police are to private citizens.

I'm going to make up some statistics here because I'm too lazy to do the research, but they'll demonstrate the point as long as I'm within about an order of magnitude. Over a 20-year period, how many times does the average citizen have an interaction with the police? Ten? Five? And how often does a police officer have an interaction with a civilian? 25 times a day doesn't sound unreasonable. That's more than 100,000 times over the same 20-year period.

Let's suppose that 1 in every 5000 police-civilian interactions goes "bad", i.e., that one or both parties are involved in a life-threatening struggle. What are the odds that any individual will be involved in such a struggle?

Civilian (10 interactions): 0.2%
Police (100,000 interactions): 100.0%

(It's actually 99.99999979%, but only if you're being funky about your significant digits.)

Now, cops are trained to do this, so they accept a much greater risk profile than civilians. But they also need to have a reasonable expectation of surviving to retirement, or they won't do the job. (And, contra Doc, you don't want to undercut recruitment, because the people who will take the place of the current recruits--who undoubtedly are a bit more aggressive than the norm--will be thrill- and/or graft-seekers.)

So let's do some more high school probability. Using the same (made-up) numbers as before, the average cop can expect to have 20 of these "bad" encounters in his career. Let's make some more numbers up and say that, in a bad encounter, the cop has a 99.9% chance of surviving if he's aggressive and quick to use force, and a 99.8% chance if he's less aggressive. What is the likelihood of each of these two cops surviving long enough to retire after 20 years?

Aggressive cop: 98.02%
Less-aggressive cop: 96.08%

That's a pretty big difference. (And yes, those survival rates are both way too low to match reality. The point is to show that tiny differences in outcomes can have large impacts on overall survival rates.) New York City has 34,000 street cops. How many police commissioners will be willing to change the SOP if it means that they incur 660 more department funerals over 20 years? And I'd be pretty surprised if the difference in survivability between the aggressive and non-aggressive strategies is as narrow as in my made-up example.

This is not an easy problem. As Doc implies, you don't want your cops acting like soldiers. Soldiers are trained to kill everything that looks even remotely hostile, but they still must be willing to accept a high probability of death in the face of a low probability bad event (aka a large-scale war).

You don't want cops to act like soldiers; they have to be infinitely more nuanced in their use of force. But at the same time, for cops to have anything like an acceptable risk profile, they have to be able to trade a much higher probability of bad events for a much lower probability of death in those bad events. That means that "no force" is as unacceptable an option as "kill everything". Ultimately, the level of force used has to be chosen so that the risk profile is acceptable enough for police work to attract professionals and repel thrill seekers.

That tradeoff is a big reason why cops are trained to be aggressive.

This doesn't mean that you should let cops use disproportionate force against African Americans or people in poor neighborhoods. It doesn't mean that you don't hold cops accountable when bad stuff happens. It doesn't even mean that you can't increase the risk profile by changing the SOP. But it does mean that there's a lower limit on how non-aggressive cops can be per SOP, and that means that mistakes and bad acts are inevitable. My guess is that that lower limit is now close to where it needs to be if you want to attract the right people.

Using the same (made-up) numbers as before, the average cop can expect to have 20 of these "bad" encounters in his career.

[...]

New York City has 34,000 street cops. How many police commissioners will be willing to change the SOP if it means that they incur 660 more department funerals over 20 years?

Made-up numbers: 0.1% of aggressive escalations of force result in unjustified civilian fatalities unjustified, versus 0.01% of cautious escalations of force. So for our made-up cop, their 20 violent incidents will result in 0.018 more unjustifiably dead civilians in their career. Over the next 20 years, avoiding 660 officer fatalities will require 612 unnecessary civilian fatalities.

Again, totally made-up numbers. But they're the made-up numbers that are totally missing from your recital of made-up numbers.

This is not an easy problem. As Doc implies, you don't want your cops acting like soldiers. Soldiers are trained to kill everything that looks even remotely hostile, but they still must be willing to accept a high probability of death in the face of a low probability bad event (aka a large-scale war).

Actually, no, this is a totally inaccurate characterization. There are rules of engagement, and they are rarely as loose as you imply. However, as a universal constant, if they're tight, Soldiers will complain they should be looser and they're being unreasonably asked to put their lives at risk for the sake of Bad People. And if they're loose, Soldiers will complain they should be looser and they're being unreasonably asked to put their lives at risk for the sake of Bad People. Which seems to be a pretty-much parallel situation with what you'll see with police EOF/ROE.

@Doc--

"But even if it's the right thing to do, killing them should still hurt the police, just as it hurts the citizenry."

This is a truly terrible idea. Cops are authorized to use deadly force for only two reasons: Defense of others and defense of self. There's some wiggle room afforded to cops that isn't there for civilians (cf. Tennessee v. Garner), but that's pretty much it.

We want police to kill people who are about to hurt or kill other people. That's the whole point of giving the state a monopoly on violence: It provides an absolute deterrence to lawless violence. It's ultimately what makes society orderly.

If you provide a career disincentive for cops to fail to act to save the lives of the innocent, then you're going to have a strong incentive for them not to save those lives. I assert that the attendant (preventable) loss of innocent life causes societal damage that vastly outweighs the damage done in a good shoot, however callous that might make the cop.

"I'm not saying that their career should be *ended*, but I think it should be *altered*."

Does "altered" mean "punished"? If it doesn't, then the alternative necessarily has to be "rewarded", because you can't take people off the street and not punish them, unless you're putting them on a track to promotion--and possibly promotion without the merit of extensive good work in the field. What kind of a message does that send? "Officer John Doe was cleared after a controversial shooting and has been transferred to a management-track position at police headquarters."

I have no problem with lowering the bar on what's considered a bad shoot and tossing the offenders out. But if people can have their careers derailed for doing the right thing, then they'll find a different profession. And the people that will fill the job in their place will have reasons for choosing the job other than a fulfilling career--reasons you'd rather not encourage by handing them a gun and color of authority.

To address DocSci's original proposal, I think it would be a bad idea to remove all shooters from positions where they could shoot again regardless of the legitimacy of a shooting. In a perfect world, it would be acceptable, but it's not realistic in terms of the effect it could have on police rosters. It would stop repeat offenses, sure. But so would outlawing police use of firearms in the first place. It's too broad a "solution", and it would have all kinds of unintended consequences.

The fundamental problem is LE is a risky career field, and our current system does not sufficiently disincentivize LEOs from transferring non-trivial amounts of risk to civilians around them - individual LEOs will choose to transfer varying amounts, but the issue is that the system we have is extremely tolerant of choices falling on the "lots" end of the spectrum. The proposed solution would not actually fix that problem; it would just mandate that LEOs would only be faced with it once in their careers.

Using the same (made-up) numbers as before, the average cop can expect to have 20 of these "bad" encounters in his career.

"Bad" encounters being previously defined as involving a life-threatening struggle.

Have you ever met a cop? 20 life-threatening struggles per career is ridiculous. The actual number is more like none.

I'd agree with both byomtov and NV. I'd also add that by inducing attrition after justified shootings, you could end up removing conscientious officers from the force.

But mostly, I think its premature to consider more novel approaches to curbing police shootings when we don't take the most basic, and likely most effective, step. That is, rapid investigation followed by a thorough review by a third party.

The real problem with putting cops on desk duty if they shoot someone is that it means that if you want desk duty you should...

Doctor S.,

First, I trust you understand that when I wrote "lunatics," I didn't mean simply, or even particularly, the mentally ill. I meant dangerous, violent individuals who attack others, including police, and behave in a way that directly and seriously threatens others' lives.

Second, I do think that it is in the nature of a police career that the sanction you suggest will effectivey end it. Sure, some will quietly manage the evidence room for fifteen years, but I suspect most will decide, correctly, that they have no real future on the police force, and go elsewhere.

Finally, I don't see why your sanctions would end litigation or community anger. The damage has been done. That the cop has been assigned to desk duty doesn't change that.

byomtov: "Police have to be able to use force sometimes, and I don't want someone's career essentially ended because of a justifiable action. There are lunatics out there."

A world in which it was anything other than an aberration for a police officer's career to be ended due to a justifiable shooting would be so far away from our world that it's frankly crazy to talk about it.

If good people have an effect over the next twenty years in the USA which is radically powerful, we'd still be light-years away from that world.

So a police officer who fails to stop a jumper from a bridge should suffer consequences. That is a police involved death. Also, it should be policy that no consideration should be given to the safety of hostages if it might cause the hostage taker to loose his life. I can see a cop saying if I can't talk this guy out of killing you, it's your bad luck. Actually, I really should just leave so when the hostage dies it won't be a police involved death. Cops should also leave the scene if a citizen suffers a heart attack ( the whatever clause of your suggestion).
What so many people don't understand is that cops are the people who put themselves between you and the bad guy.

I guess I should withdraw my post. I don't believe sarcasm ever changes anyone's mind. I hope in spite of my approach some see my point. Though I majored in criminal justice when Christ was a rookie, I was never a cop. But, I did do a year internship on a police force, and I can tell you that every cop I met wouldn't hesitate an instant to put himself between you danger.

"Barring from the police force anybody who ever enjoyed watching "Cops" might be productive, too; Was there even one episode of that show that didn't involve abusive levels of force?"

wow! i've tuned in just in time to see mr. bellmore say something totally reasonable. my hat's off to him for saying that. i spent a couple of evenings when i was in college with a couple of law school nerds who would watch the show and then count up the number of ways police error would allow the suspect to get off.

more seriously, i've known several police officers and was fairly close to the police chief of my home town. when he was in a mood to talk, he agreed that there were people who didn't belong in police work because they were going into for the wrong reasons and if he'd had enough of the better type applying he never would have hired the ones who didn't belong. it frustrated him that he sometimes had to hire folks who were bullies at heart.

I thought the post by TheRadicalModerate at 05:19 PM was the Count's parody of factoid's post about AA homicide rates relative to death's by cops. But it was meant seriously. Weird.

I'm going to make up some statistics here because I'm too lazy to do the research

Zzzzzzzzzz.....

Suffice it to say that being a cop is often dangerous.

I would imagine that that cops are likely frequently afraid, and often for good reason. I"d also imagine that cops, being human beings, may respond to that by trying to control situations to minimize their (and other people's) risk.

Plus, a lot of the folks they have to deal with are criminals, and/or aren't really interested in doing what the cop wants or needs them to do, and/or may themselves be armed, and/or are behaving in some unpredictable [email protected] fashion.

So, it's a really hard job.

It's also not all the cops' fault that their vibe has become so militarized. It certainly seems to be something they've embraced, but then again it strikes me that there is a constituency for SWAT teams in the hometown. I'm not sure it would happen purely at the initiative of the police departments.

To some degree "US police culture" is "US culture". Not entirely, but police culture is also not some weird alien mushroom that just sprouted here, with no context or precedent.

It's not just cops who think the solution to any and all forms of social conflict is to start shooting and ask questions later.

To the degree that violent, heavy-handed policing persists here, it's at least partially due to the fact that a non-trivial number of folks who aren't cops are totally fine with it.

Part, maybe a very large part, of changing "cop culture" is really going to turn out to be changing our culture, period.

In any case, as a simple practical matter IMO it would be great for interactions between cops and civilians to be recorded, so that we can at least avoid the he said / she said bullish*t that made the Darren Wilson / Michael Brown thing such a toxic mess.

It would also help if cops who have a demonstrable record of abusing people were taken off the street. Thanks for nothing, police union, among other actors.

It would also help if @sshole cops who respond to events like those we've been treated to recently by tweeting "I hate niggers. That is all" were invited to find themselves another job. It's a public office, and a highly responsible one, if you announce to the world that you hate a very large demographic of the folks you're supposed to be serving and protecting, you're in the wrong job.

Some calls are just not that hard to make.

What so many people don't understand is that cops are the people who put themselves between you and the bad guy.

Then obviously we must find a way to reduce the number of bad folks.

Police also tend to be highly unionized, but conservatives never ever refer to them as "union thugs". I wonder why that is.

byomtov, Brett, etc:

A big reason for my immodest proposal -- which I agree is politically impossible -- is that the last month has made me terminally cynical about the word "justifiable".

The record shows that indictments of police officers for on-the-job killings are extremely rare. We're not talking about *trials*, weighing the evidence to decide guilt or innocence, but *indictments* -- which in other cases are almost pro forma.

Unfortunately, I think the pattern is too overwhelming for this to be just a case of prosecutor bias, which might be removed by having another agency do the investigating. I think the problem is that Americans believe "justifiable" homicide is a solution to a lot of problems, and can come up with justifications for pretty much anything if they feel like it. And when it comes to the police, white Americans mostly feel like it.

At this point, I think "justifiable homicide" by police is nothing but an excuse, at least 90% of the time. And I'm not pulling that number out of my butt, that represents the order-of-magnitude difference between police killings in the US and in Canada & Australia.

If you scroll through Killed by Police, you'll see that yes, there are a number of deaths of "active shooters", where even I would be inclined to say it was "justifiable". But the whole concept of "justifiable homicide" has been tainted, for me, and I no longer trust my own instincts.

"But, I did do a year internship on a police force, and I can tell you that every cop I met wouldn't hesitate an instant to put himself between you danger."

This is exactly the sort of pious nonsense that needs destroyed.

In literally every case where the police shoot someone who was no plausible threat to them, the explanation is that the officer, seeing someone make a furtive gesture or whatever the case may have been, believed he was "in fear for his life."

Recently in my area, police responded to a call about a kid with a possible weapon by screeching up in a police car, leaping out, screaming, and then opening fire when the kid made a startled motion. The whole interaction took like three seconds, absolute tops. Probably less depending on when you start counting.

A few months ago they did exactly the same thing in a store. Charged up, screamed over their guns, and when the terrified kid predictably reacted in a terrified manner, riddled him with bullets.

Their explanation is always that they were afraid for their lives.

But unpack that. They had a situation where a child may or may not be a threat. They had two choices.

1. Take a path that could, at least potentially, put themselves at risk, but which would make it much less likely that they would unnecessarily kill a child. Say, by approaching in a manner that permitted their victim to comprehend the situation and make a measured response.

2. Take a path that minimized the risk to themselves, while maximizing the risk that the child would die. Which is what they did- leaping out, shoving guns in someone's face while screaming, then firing over and over because the person responded exactly like anyone would.

They chose option two. And what's more, everything we know about the police, every story we read, EVERYTHING THAT THEIR DEFENDERS TELL US, screams that the police will choose option two every time.

Well, you don't get to choose option two and then have people piously lie about you putting your life on the line to protect the public. Because that's the literal opposite of what it means to pick option two. Option two is putting the public on the line to protect yourself, in the most direct and literal sense.

@NV--

"Made-up numbers: 0.1% of aggressive escalations of force result in unjustified civilian fatalities unjustified, versus 0.01% of cautious escalations of force."

Having admitted that I didn't expect my made-up numbers to be reasonable beyond about an order of magnitude, I guess I have no right to quibble about your made-up numbers.

But I'm going to quibble anyway (at great length, it turns out), for a couple of reasons.

First, I don't think the metric you want is "unjustified" deaths vs. "justified". As we have seen, justification is in the eye of the beholder. What you really want to do is to deal with all deaths. The problematic deaths are likely to be the ones that were "justified" but unnecessary. Those are going to happen when a cop lets a situation get out of control and escalate to the point where he has to use deadly force to save his own life. He'll be exonerated by a shooting board and is unlikely to face criminal charges--but it's still his fault that the civilian is dead. He didn't do his job properly. If anything, that would lead me to believe that policies that discouraged aggression might result in more deaths, not less.

Second, when we talk about aggressive vs. less aggressive, I don't know how you'd discuss variations between individuals without much more detailed statistical analysis. All we can back-of-napkin is an "average" cop. But that cop will be affected by his department's policy. For any particular SOP, you're going to get a distribution of deaths all the way from hyper-cautious through hyper-aggressive people. Even so, a change in SOP is likely to move the whole distribution--and hence the average cop--a little bit right or left. But that kind of effect isn't going to vary by an order of magnitude.

It would seem more reasonable to me that we look at something like policy A having a 0.1% chance of resulting in a death and policy B having a 0.09% chance. Then you're looking at 68 extra civilian deaths over 20 years.

And then things become more interesting, don't they? Is the cost of 660 more dead cops worth saving 68 civilian lives? I'm pretty sure that if you could reasonably expect all 68 civilians to be completely innocent of any sort of wrongdoing in the encounter, most cops would say "yes". But what if most of those civilians were more than a little sketchy? Now I'm pretty sure that most cops would say "no".

Now that's a real cultural effect, because cops tend to confront people that they view as problematic, and those people are therefore vastly more likely to wind up dead. If you actually want to reduce civilian deaths, you need to find a way to instill a much finer discrimination between who cops view as "bad" vs. those viewed as "a problem". That's going to be tough, because the distinction only matters if you intentionally don't confront the problems, which is contrary to broken windows-style policing.

Maybe the answer is that you need to have doctrines that classify the people you're going to confront, with distinct ROEs for the different classifications. Beats me how you'd put that into practice, though.

BTW, I think what you said here is dead-on as far as it goes. My only complaint is that the asymmetries between the cops and the civilians are a major driver of the bias toward the "lots" end of the spectrum. Which is sort of what I'm driving at with what even I now agree has strayed seriously into TL;DR territory. It's an interesting systems problem, though.

That wasn't me.

Ok, body cams, dash cams, GUN cams, (It would have settled a lot in the Michael Brown case, if every shot of a police officer's gun was accompanied by a photo from the perspective of the gun.). Gonna be a tough thing to push, the police love everything being their (Golden!) word against everybody else's. In that vein, I'd make police interrogations which aren't taped inadmissible in court. There's precisely zero good reasons for the police to not record them.

And it's time to quash with extreme prejudice the notion so common among police that other people don't have a right to record what they're doing. They do, it's a well established right, and it's time to declare that it's well enough established that a cop can never think the contrary in good faith. And state laws to the contrary need to fall, this is a good case that could fall under the 14th amendment for overriding local policy.

And, predictable from a libertarian, but still true: Every single law provides an opportunity for people to come into conflict with the police, and every such conflict has the potential to go bad. We need fewer laws. A LOT fewer laws. Starting with the war on drugs, which has to die, root and branch.

Finally, stop the process of militarizing the police. Perhaps paranoid of me, but it seems to me it began in earnest not long after that study some years back that interviewed military personnel as to whether they'd be willing to fire on US citizens, and found most would not. Just like the NSA, we're constructing a police state in this country, and we'd better stop it while there's still time, assuming there IS still time.

It would seem more reasonable to me that we look at something like policy A having a 0.1% chance of resulting in a death and policy B having a 0.09% chance. Then you're looking at 68 extra civilian deaths over 20 years.

Given that Policy A is "aggressive escalation of force" and Policy B is "gradual/considered escalation of force", I think it's extremely optimistic to come up with a difference of 0.01% chance of an unnecessary civilian fatality if we've already accepted your made-up numbers about how fraught with danger these encounters (and careers) are. Which, let me add as an aside, my own wild made-up numbers notwithstanding, I agree with boxofdelights in holding that they're absurdly high. I'll stick by my made-up numbers, TYVM.

And then things become more interesting, don't they?

Not really, no.

Is the cost of 660 more dead cops worth saving 68 civilian lives? I'm pretty sure that if you could reasonably expect all 68 civilians to be completely innocent of any sort of wrongdoing in the encounter, most cops would say "yes". But what if most of those civilians were more than a little sketchy? Now I'm pretty sure that most cops would say "no".

(Emphasis added.)

So you've just made a moderate proposal: any "wrongdoing" while interacting with police, or being "more than a little sketchy" while interacting with police, or being perceived as fitting into one of those boxes by an officer who is subject to think-fast-shoot-fast EOF rules, merits summary execution. Uh-huh.

BTW, I'm pretty sure all of the 612 officers who hypothetically shot innocents in our example will be quick to testify that their victims were "more than a little sketchy" or not "wholly w/o wrongdoing" in the encounter, and thus those 612 civilians more than worth saving 660 police lives. And I'm sure their colleagues will be quick to close ranks, take their colleagues' word for it, and agree with them. So you've just presented a borderline tautology. And the beauty of things as they now stand is that the rank-closers will investigate the matter, and since the victim is dead, there will never be a trial to determine if there was substantiated wrongdoing or just a perception thereof - the closest you'd come to a trial would be a ham sandwich (or rather, un-ham sandwich) production before a non-adversarial grand jury or a sympathetic judge, and that only in the face of immoderate public pressure. So they musta dun wrong, because the person who would have been asked to risk being one of the 660 martyrs if they were more moderate in escalating force, or who would risk being a convicted criminal (or unemployed) if they say the victim didn't do wrong, is the person we're asking first and foremost if they did wrong.

So yeah, no, asking the same police officers who make force protection Job One and who may well view themselves as being "at war" with either regions of the community or at least subsets of the population - and with a boiled-in presumption that if an officer was confronting a person, that person belonged to one of the belligerent factions - if the 612 deaths they just caused to avoid 660 deaths in their ranks isn't all that interesting.

Lemme just say, rosy-eyed ideologue 3rd paragraph notwithstanding, I agree with Brett's 0637.

Patrick: Well, you don't get to choose option two and then have people piously lie about you putting your life on the line to protect the public.

Hear, hear!

I'm generally against piety in all its forms, and in addition to the one that Patrick addresses, I am annoyed by the ... corollary? progenitor? .. piety about "our troops": that they are "fighting for our freedom". Not always true.

--TP

NV: Lemme just say, rosy-eyed ideologue 3rd paragraph notwithstanding, I agree with Brett's 0637.

Seconded.

Brett's 3rd graf argues for "a lot fewer laws" on the grounds that "every single law provides an opportunity for people to come into conflict with the police, and every such conflict has the potential to go bad."

I suppose the arrest of a Bernie Madoff has the potential to go bad in the same way as the arrest of an Eric Garner -- on some planet. But if we confine ourselves to terrestrial reality in the US, we have plenty of laws whose "potential" in that respect is vanishingly small.

Rich people don't get killed by cops while being confronted about rich-person crimes like defrauding Brett of his life savings, or polluting Brett's drinking water, or manufacturing incandescent bulbs for Brett's chicken coop. Ideology is all well and good, but reality counts for something too.

--TP

Body cams for police are an idea who's time has come.

Additionally the way shootings by police are investigated needs to change drastically and immediately. There is absolutely no reason why an investigator should wait 48 hours to take a statement from a policeman after a shooting fatal or otherwise.

Additionally the investigations of these incidents should definitely be done by someone other than law enforcement officials.

So, already the law prohibiting law enforcement from hiring wanna-be cops who have viewed the "Cops" reality show has been withdrawn from consideration?

Was that a pocket veto?

I was going to co-sponser that legislation if Brett agreed to a rider also prohibiting cops and would-be cops from viewing "Cheaters" and any reality show which stars Donald Trump's hairpiece as the anti-hero.

I would agree to one last "Cops" meets "Cheaters" episode, in which the unctuous, manipulative, hilariously deadpan host of "Cheaters" is chased by overweight, bald cops wielding pruning shears down dark alleys and over chain link fences and cornered under his mother's bed, then dragged by his feet into the garage out back for lengthy questioning as his testicles are hooked up to a variety of new-fangled car batteries supplied by the show sponser -- Tesla Motors.

I'm sure that when you say "there are lunatics out there" you don't *really* mean that police killings of the mentally ill are justified

Dr S, I'm sure you are familiar with the phenomena of people treating the characteristics of a subset as the characteristics of a whole population. In this case, there are lots of mentally ill who there is no reason to kill.

But there is a subset who are both mentally ill and armed and dnagerous. Those, that subset, would be the dangerous "lunatics out there" who the police may, from time to time, have to kill in the line of duty -- if only to stop them killing the rest of us before non-lethal means can be brought to bear.

Patrick: everything we know about the police, every story we read, EVERYTHING THAT THEIR DEFENDERS TELL US, screams that the police will choose option two every time.

No, Patrick, we do not know anything like that. What we know is that, if an enormous number of cases, police will choose option two IF the individual fits their personal mental profile (frequently based, in substantial part, on race) of someone dangerous.

If I behaved like that man in the store who was looking at guns which were on sale, would I get shot? Almost certainly not. If I was 14, and behaved like the kid in the park who was playing with a toy gun, would I get shot? Again, almost certainly not. But then, I'm a blue-eyed blond -- so I don't fit the "dangerous person" profile. Even though I might be another Clive Bundy....

Delurking for a second...

Radical Moderate @ 1:51

...but they'll demonstrate the point as long as I'm within about an order of magnitude.

&

Having admitted that I didn't expect my made-up numbers to be reasonable beyond about an order of magnitude...

Just wanted to take a second to point out that your made-up numbers are not within an order of magnitude. According to the Officer Down Memorial page, New York City has lost 814 officers in the line of duty since 1806. Wikipedia reports that of those, 23, or about 2%, died on 9/11.

The hypothetical of 660 deaths in 20 years vs. the reality of ~800 deaths in ~200 years is off by almost exactly an order of magnitude.

It took me about 15 seconds to locate the above numbers.

I, too, in an surprising turn of fate find myself in agreement* with Brett's 6:37.

*third paragraph caveats as regards being overly broad notwithstanding

Doctor S.,

that represents the order-of-magnitude difference between police killings in the US and in Canada & Australia.

Well then. Maybe we should look at how things are different in Australia and Canada and try to adopt whatever policies they have that make police killings rare events.

I don't deny we have a problem. No one does. I question the value of your proposal. As I said initially, I tend to view these things more as problems of system than of widespread individual misbehavior.

Late to the conversation as usual. I see that others have had the thought that I have every time I hear or see a discussion of this problem: "Police need to be able to kill people" is a completely false assertion. In most countries, police are not able to kill people and nobody, including the police, thinks it would be a good idea if they were. In other words, Americans still think they are the whole world, and other people's experiences have no relevance.

"I suppose the arrest of a Bernie Madoff has the potential to go bad in the same way as the arrest of an Eric Garner -- on some planet."

What I'm saying is that this, the potential for enforcement to escalate to lethal force, ought to always be a consideration, and to be evaluated. And, I think if it were, we'd have a lot less of some sorts of laws. Because this potential differs between different sorts of laws, and the basis for being willing to tolerate this potential differs between them, too.

One thing I'd like to point out is that being a police officer is not a particularly dangerous job. There were 27 police officers feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2013. The average number killed over the past decade is a bit over fifty per year.

There are over three quarters of a million sworn officers in the United States. That puts the odds of any individual cop being shot and killed any given year at about 1 in 15000.

Your average American has better odds of dying in a car crash (1 in 9350) than your average cop does of getting killed by a perp.

I'd like to off an amendment to Doctor Science's proposal. If an LEO can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he or she was actually in danger or that the shooting was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to innocent civilians or other police officers, then they get their gun and badge back.

Just to be clear, if the officer makes a mistake, if the gun isn't real or the person was reaching for their cellphone or any other accident or mistake or mishap, they never get to carry a gun or arrest people ever again. The standard isn't reasonable fear for your life, it's actually in serious danger.

Guns kill people:

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/08/20140822_copkillers.jpg

If people wouldn't be allowed to have guns, the police wouldn't be able to justify shooting them out of fear for their own safety (except for real criminals who would get their hands on guns illegally).

Nah, actually bullets do, unless you pistol-whip somebody.

If people weren't allowed to have drugs, nobody would get high, I suppose, and there'd be no drug smuggling, no meth labs, none of that. Because people never respond to laws they find offensive by violating them, do they?

If people "weren't allowed" to have guns, in America, the police would have go go around killing a hell of a lot MORE people, because a pretty large fraction of the population would have utter contempt for that "weren't allowed". And would violate that law, and defend themselves from anybody who tried to enforce it.

Yeah, those people would then become "real criminals". And they'd view the government as the real criminals.

But, this is kind of like saying, "if people had unicorns following them around reminding them to be nice", isn't it? You're about as likely to get that "weren't allowed".

The comments to this entry are closed.