Nassau’s police union president blamed the armed parolee for a Hofstra student’s death and fiercely defended the officer Tuesday who shot and killed the 21-year-old woman and the gunman as he held her in a chokehold.No one can blame Carver for doing what he’s supposed to do as the union president. So what if the argument defies the logic borne of false dichotomies. He’s there to back up his officers, and that’s what he does.
“We back his decision 100 percent,” James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said at a news conference in Mineola. “There’s only one person responsible for what happened early Friday and that’s the ex-con.”
Even if there was any wiggle room in his perception, any waver in his voice, when it came to doing his job, the police officer, “identified by sources as Nikolas Budimlic.” made a mistake that resulted in Rebello’s death. There are no shortage of cop stories where deaths were caused maliciously or recklessly, and no one suspects bad intent on the cop’s part. So the union’s defense of its member required no stretch of morality, even if reason was strained to the breaking point.
“There’s some second-guessing going on by people who think maybe he should have stayed outside the house, but our job is to get inside there and make sure we can protect as many people as we can,” Carver said.
Well, no. Your job was to not kill victims or bystanders. Your job was not to cause greater damage than the crime you were fighting. That you want to deceive the public so that no one notices the fatal error is one thing, but let’s not pretend you did your job by putting a bullet into the head of Andrea Rebello. Still, the role of union president isn’t to be reasonable. Not even correct. It’s to cover your members, and Carver did exactly that.
But what is understandable of a union president isn’t acceptable from the editorial board of the only newspaper in the neighborhood, Newsday.
There should be no misunderstanding about why Hofstra student Andrea Rebello is dead: The life of this 21-year-old Tarrytown resident ended tragically because Dalton Smith, a career criminal who had spent the vast majority of his adulthood incarcerated for serious, often violent crimes, invaded her home and menaced Rebello and others (including her twin sister) with a loaded gun.
In a way, sure. Smith is the criminal. Smith is the person who set in motion the events that ultimately ended in the death of Andrea Rebello. Smith is to blame. But that is facile as it is the nature of crime, yet does nothing to explain why she is dead. Smith is only one piece of the puzzle, and to suggest otherwise is to wallow in a false dichotomy of choices, where there can only be one person to blame. That’s a logical fallacy.
But the editorial then compounds its error by picking on the low hanging fruit:
But even while there is no question where to hang the blame, there are questions that need to be answered, some of which stem from the fact that this felon was in a position to commit the crime:It’s true that no convicted criminal could ever commit another crime if he was never released from prison. Or better still, executed. Is that what the editorial seeks, the execution of every criminal? Of course, then the other convicts released who aren’t named “Smith” would be held forever as well, or executed as the case may be, because one can never be sure which one will commit a crime in the future. So all of them, Newsday? Every one? Forever? Is that the question you really mean to ask?
Should Smith have been paroled after he served nine years for attempted armed robbery and criminal possession of a weapon?
Was it appropriate to let Smith out once again, in February, after he had been jailed for violating that parole? Will we learn that the local parole office is understaffed?
Was Smith pursued as actively as he should have been once a warrant was issued for his arrest in April, again for violating parole?
Or was the fault that he tested dirty and violated parole? Are you contending that Smith should have gotten life for that? The editorial strains not merely reason, but its own editorial positions. Which is it, Newsday, drug treatment or the death penalty. Make up your mind.
The other issues involve the review of the police response in the tense and chaotic minutes after they arrived at the crime scene.Those “tense and chaotic minutes” are what police are trained for, the moment when they need to get it right. While it may tug at the heartstrings of the public to explain why it would have been so terribly difficult for an untrained citizen to handle this situation, dumbing it down for sympathy is the weapon of a police union president, not an editorial board.
Second-guessing the officer who fired seven bullets into Smith and one into Rebello, killing both, is not the point. That officer was faced with numerous split-second decisions, starting with whether to enter the house and ending with whether to fire. If Andrea Rebello had lived, the officer would be hailed a hero.Second-guessing the officer is precisely the point. There is no control over the acts of a criminal, whose conduct violates the law and the social compact, putting people at risk for evil reasons. This is why we have police officers. This is why we train them. This is why we give them weapons and a shield, the authority to do things that the rest of us cannot. Because they are supposed to stand between us, the law-abiding citizenry, and the criminal who, by definition, is engaged in bad conduct.
It’s true that the officer would be “hailed a hero” had Rebello lived, but that would be making the same facile mistake as blaming Smith to the exclusion of the erroneous execution of procedure by the officer. The end doesn’t justify the means, even if most people, including those sitting on Newsday’s editorial board, are happy enough to think so.
The words “second-guessing” are pejorative, suggesting that there is no such thing as well-conceived, well-executed police practice that is designed to provide the greatest likelihood that no victim will die from a police officer’s bullet in her head. This isn’t a guess. Saving lives isn’t an accident, any more than taking them.
While no one expects the police union president to be anything other than an apologist for his members, offering phony excuses for a terrible situation so that blame is shifted anywhere but on a cop, our expectations of the media, of Newsday, are different and higher. And it’s Newsday’s job to ”second-guess” when a 21-year-old Hofstra co-ed dies from a bullet in her head.
We know Smith was a criminal. We also know he didn’t murder Andrea Rebello. Blame isn’t limited to one person, and nothing is illuminated by an illogical and deceptive editorial. Who you going to blame when the next police bullet strikes a victim?