Frustration, Hopelessness and a Whole Lot of ‘Vettes

The connection between the world of insanity and a world that comes far closer to criminal defense turned out to be Copwatch, a site dedicated to police accountability.  It was a tenuous connection at best.

Jerad Miller — who along with his wife, Amanda, gunned down the Vegas police officers before dying during a shootout with police — was one of Cop Block’s 780,000-plus Facebook fans.

But after the killing of two officers, the ugliness beneath the surface quickly appeared:

The celebrating began before the coroner could collect the bodies of Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, the Las Vegas patrol officers ambushed and executed while eating at a pizzeria last month.

“The good news is, there are two less police in the world,” read an entry on the Facebook page for CopBlock.org.

The post was visible for less than a day, but it attracted at least 6,300 likes and comments by the time the page’s administrators removed it.

Like Copblock, SJ has become something of a repository of police misconduct and abuse, and has drawn the attention of websites promoting hatred and violence toward police. Unlike Copwatch, close supervision — some say overbearing supervision — would have precluded any possibility of a comment that the murder of police officers is in any way acceptable.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t learned a great deal about the seething hatred and frustration of many readers. I read the comments that are trashed, and do not allow comments that promote violence toward others, particularly cops.  Those who believe that’s a solution to their anger toward “tyranny” have no place here. They will find no comfort and support. They are wrong and sick.

The purpose of preventing police harming others is never furthered by promoting harm toward anyone. No one. Indeed, I find it troubling when lawyers begin generically referring to police as “thugs,” or what they do as “tyranny,” as it feeds into the mindset of anger and violence. I understand the sense of frustration and hopelessness, but invoking violence and hatred as a solution makes you as bad as the worst cop.  The idea is to be better, not just as bad in the opposite direction.

The decentralized advocacy group says it disavows violence while spreading a belief that “badges don’t grant extra rights.”

“There was blanket rejoicing over the deaths of two people and I don’t think that’s good in any situation,” [Pete] Eyre said. “It didn’t fit Cop Block ideology. The site’s not an anti-police thing; it’s like a pro-personal empowerment site.”

While I’m sure Pete means what he says, disavowing violence may not suffice given what Copwatch does.  Single issue websites become lightning rods for crazies, and without a substantial amount of oversight, too easily become a home for festering hatred.

Last week the SPLC issued a report warning law enforcement about the increasingly hostile anti-government movement, which it estimates has grown from 150 groups in 2008 to nearly 1,100 last year.

The economic crisis, proposed gun control, Barack Obama’s election, NSA spying and the militarization of police among other issues have spurred the resurgence, the watchdog organization said.

“There’s a hell of a lot of anger out there in certain corridors,” [SPLC’s Mark] Potok told Yahoo News. “Jerad Miller was not the only one who saw police in the United States as Nazis.”

It’s impossible to write and comment about criminal law, police and prosecutorial misconduct, without knowing that there are a great many angry, potentially violent, people out there, galvanizing around websites on the internet where people of the same mind share their anger, bolstering each other’s worst thoughts and impulses.

They spread bizarrely wrong misinformation among themselves, and crazy explanations for why others, people like me for instance, are part of the conspiracy of tyranny.  After all, anyone who doesn’t support armed insurrection doesn’t get it, by definition.  You wouldn’t believe some of the insane claims and arguments people try to offer here.

To the extremists and the insane, SJ comes off as a cop-loving website, and I am called a badge-licker, because of my intolerance of violence and stupidity.  The cops would have these ideas declared criminal, because reasons.

Rich Stanek, who chairs the National Sheriffs’ Association Homeland Security Committee, said he proudly protects constitutional rights, but he worries social networking gives radicals such as Miller a false sense of recognition.

“They can post, blog and do so freely and anonymously without any accountability whatsoever,” said Stanek, sheriff of Hennepin County in Minnesota.

We do not have the same vision of what it means to “proudly protect constitutional rights.”  The core concept of free speech is that people “can post, blog and do so freely and anonymously without any accountability whatsoever,” which is what Stanek can’t stomach if it’s bad for his gang.  Notably, he chairs the Homeland Security Committee. There is no chair of the “Stop Police Misconduct, Abuse and Violence” committee.  Stanek might consider connecting the dots.

I spend a lot of time with cops.  Not just in my practice, but in my free time. Cops like cars, and when I take my Healey to a car show, I’ll find myself hanging around with off-duty cops with muscle cars and Corvettes.  They really like ‘Vettes.  Sure, some have better taste in cars, but an awful lot love ‘Vettes.

When they’re wearing the car-guy hats, they’re pretty much like anyone else. There’s the occasional hard case, but even the other cops tend to steer clear of them, saying they’re the ones who give cops a bad name.  I’ve explained that the failure to rid the ranks of these “bad cops” is a big part of the problem. They look at me as if I just don’t get it.

What I’ve learned is that they’re just as afraid of us as we are of them. Hence, the First Rule of Policing, except that they can’t understand what’s wrong with it.  This remains a wall that has to come down, and that’s one of the goals here at SJ. The mutual fear and loathing does no good for any of us.

The culture must change, but violence against cops is not the answer.  No matter how frustrating and hopeless it may seem, they’re just guys with ‘Vettes who see things through the prism of their own interests. If you feel the urge to harm them, you need psychological help.  If they needlessly or excessively harm others, they need to be taken off the job and get help as well.

Nobody, however, needs to be harmed. No matter how frustrated and hopeless you feel, violence is not the answer. For anyone.  And if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, or even an advocate against police misconduct, we have a duty to prevent the spread of violence and stupidity.  We cannot allow ourselves to lend comfort to those who want to harm others.

H/T Mike Paar

28 comments on “Frustration, Hopelessness and a Whole Lot of ‘Vettes

  1. Jake DiMare

    “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” might be the best quote from FDR’s first inaugural speech, and, I believe, a fitting response to this eloquent entry. However, it strikes me how many other options from that speech have been forgotten:

    “More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”

    or

    “The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”

    or

    “Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”

    or, finally:

    “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”

    My point, which I am sure you are irritated for me to make is this: I believe the authorities in this country have lost the moral ‘Authority’ in ways most terrible and incontrovertible. The invasion of Iraq, the economic collapse of 2007/2008, the scandals of privacy, torture, cops shooting dogs, and beating and killing people for dubious reasons, and all the other stories we the public have all come to know since the internet began upending the mainstream media’s vice grip on controlling the message. Some of which we’ve learned from mavericks like you, Scott Greenfield, sharing the truth on Simple Justice with clarity and legal interpretation.

    The authorities are surely at a cross roads. Should they reread the rest of FDR’s first inaugural speech? It’s a blueprint for what this country needs right now…And any policy would be an improvement for the middle and lower classes.

    Or should they continue to squeeze all the wealth, opportunity, and hope out of the those with the most guns, and the least to lose…While those few of us with things we care about look on with fascinated horror, at the inevitability of it all.

    Or maybe I’m just paranoid.

    1. SHG Post author

      Vague, overarching, feel-good messages and warnings like FDR’s were meant to sooth the masses by saying nothing while conveying the impression of concern and action. It’s a politician’s art, and few were as good at it as FDR. As such empty rhetoric continues to stand up today to give meaning to the insipid and foolish, despite its shallowness, it proves that times may change, but people do not. They still grasp at vapidity in the hope of imputing meaning where none exists, like a life-preserving for the ignorant masses.

      Or maybe you’re just paranoid.

      1. Jake DiMare

        I’m going to assume your dismissal was more directed at my lack of specificity in response to your post than a true critique of FDR, as I’m certain you are aware of ‘The New Deal’, subsequent changes to society, and the unmatched economic growth that followed.

        Perhaps I earned a spanking for lack of specificity. My point is, clumsy as it may be made, if those in authority who are supposed to be in ‘control’ lose that ‘control’ while trying to maintain it by smashing a prone woman in the face with closed fists on the side of the highway…Whose fault is the lack of control? While this example is specific…I believe it applies to society in a macro sense.

        I appreciate the point you are trying to make: There’s no room for violence. But as a non-violent, tax-paying member of our society, I am putting 100% of the responsibility for whatever may come on those who claim authority.

  2. Bruce Coulson

    Part of the reason that police don’t ‘get it’ when it’s mentioned that their departments, and their profession in general, would benefit from the removal of those few bad officers, is the perception that although those officers are bad; they’ll still be the ones coming to aid their fellow officers when a situation goes south. ‘Bad officers’ are the ones who let their ‘team’ down; both the ones who don’t respond to ‘officer in trouble’ calls, and the ones who point out deficiencies and failings in the department. There are few people who can see the bigger picture beyond ‘it’s us vs. them’.

    1. SHG Post author

      Aside from the obviousness of this, do you have some basis to reach this conclusion? If you’re going to opine about police “perceptions,” there has to be basis for it. Otherwise, it’s just noise.

      1. ExCop-LawStudent

        Bruce is right. It ties in with the First Law.

        The abusive officers are also, almost inevitably, one of the first to show up when you call for help. The bad officers (like a sergeant I had), never showed up until it was over.

        So when you talk about getting rid of the bad officers, they look at you like you’re nuts, because those are the same guys that let them go home at night.

        1. SHG Post author

          The question wasn’t whether Bruce was right, but that right or wrong, opinions need to have a known basis. That’s something to remember in your future career. Remember the old adage about opinions.

          Unless Bruce is a cop or has a basis to speak for cops, he has no business offering the cop perspective, no matter how right he is (or thinks he is).

  3. Jim March

    See…this does NOT excuse cheering anybody’s death, but you have to factor something in here: Las Vegas PD has a very, very bad reputation. Much worse than most departments their size. If you track specific issues on sites like Reddit’s “Bad_Cop_No_Donut” subforum or the much more credible Carlos Miller’s “Photography Is Not A Crime” site (by far the best of the copwatcher-type websites) you see patterns. Certain agencies have problems. Miami Beach PD, Seattle, Portland OR, Baltimore MD, Prince William County MD, Albuquerque, Maricopa Sheriff’s department under the notorious Joe Arpaio (who once loaned a freakin’ tank to action star Steven Seagal on an actual raid, who drove it through a large chicken coop) and a few others. New York and Los Angeles, sure, but mainly because of their size. The others listed (and a few more) are racking up trouble way out of proportion to their size.

    Las Vegas PD have killed several people under very fishy circumstances, especially the Erik Scott case from 2010 and quite a few others.

    It isn’t right that those two cops in Vegas died, but…if any “copwatcher types” were going to go nuts, it would have been in one of those places where police abuse issues are at a higher boil than elsewhere and Las Vegas PD is a hotspot.

    1. SHG Post author

      No. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot say “it’s NOT right,” but then say, but if it’s going to happen, this was a place that deserved it.

      No. No matter what happens or how bad a PD appears to be in whatever “copwatcher” site you prefer, it is never a reason to kill cops, applaud their death or provide a mitigating circumstances for a cop murder. Never.

  4. Alex Stalker

    Part of the reason for the growing extremist anti-cop movement is that there isn’t really a productive or recognized legitimate outlet for people who are afraid or angry at the growing evidence of inappropriate police behavior. When non-law enforcement personnel realize the situation in the country today, usually through tragic personal experience, there is no mainstream group or organization within the system to discuss or act against the fears that police will enforce the first rule of policing in a manner that results in injury or death to oneself, close friends, clients, or loved ones.

    This doesn’t mean that such fears dissipate, but rather the individuals with these fears become marginalized and radicalized. Maybe if there were a legitimate national organization along the lines of “Citizens to Stop Police Misconduct, Abuse and Violence” then rational people would be able to discuss the situation and act within the system to change it. But there isn’t. And so the issue is confined to the fringes of legitimate discussion, where all the crazies range.

    Basically, we need an ACLU for police misconduct, abuse, and violence. I would think this issue would actually be right up the ACLU’s alley, but they haven’t really taken the lead on it in any way that I am aware of.

    1. SHG Post author

      Don’t conflate frustration and hopelessness (both very real problems and certainly in need of catharsis and viable resolution) with murder. You don’t have to like the situation; you still can’t harm people.

        1. SHG Post author

          I didn’t think you were, but the rhetoric is too easily interchangeable, or at least viewed that way by people who project their own solutions onto you.

  5. ExCop-LawStudent

    I’m not clear on something. Were the Millers part of Copwatch.com or part of Copblock.org or both? These are two separate entities, but it seems that the terms are being used interchangeably. I see the connection to Copblock, but I haven’t seen anything on Copwatch that was tied to the Millers.

    1. SHG Post author

      There weren’t “part of” any Copwatch/Copblock organization. They were on the internet. They “liked” on Facebook, maybe commented on some websites. There was no mutual connection involved as far as I’ve found.

  6. ExEMT

    You hit the “nail on the head” when you comment that “you can’t have it both ways”, and the promotion and rapid rise in websites devoted to “police accountability” is troubling to me as someone who worked alongside cops for 17 years, and still has a lot of friends in law enforcement.

    I guess my confusion at times is about the videos that get posted at some of these “cop accountability” websites. Can anyone argue that some of the behavior that these websites show have stepped over the line on what is acceptable behavior by someone in law enforcement? How do we (as members of the general public) evaluate and consider those?

    There will never be (as you state) a reason or “excuse” for the outrageous requests for “retribution” that some of these websites ask for. The “eye for an eye” is never appropriate. I just struggle with how to best address the videos that show law enforcement officers who are “stepping over the line” and “betraying” the public trust. Color me confused and looking for a decent answer from you.

    1. SHG Post author

      Police misconduct and abuse are serious matters, demanding address whether cops realize it or not. But the solution (and granted, it’s not a particularly satisfying solution) is through the electoral process, spreading the word, getting people to give a damn, changing political attitudes and police culture to recognize that this isn’t a war and the public isn’t the enemy.

      As much as attitudes are changing because video has made people far more aware that this problem is real and pervasive, we still elect people to office who refuse to rein in police misconduct, and pander to the cops and tough on crime crowd. This must change, and its up to us to make clear to our elected officials that we need them to do their job of upholding the Constitution and protecting the citizenry from violence and abuse by police.

      1. ExEMT

        Holy Cow, I agree 100%. Well said. As someone who has worked very close to politicians, you are sadly correct that a large majority of them lack the “intestinal fortitude” it would take to address the most serious episodes of misconduct among law enforcement. There is no workforce that is blameless and above reproach (and I am sincere in that assertion), but the ability of law enforcement to commit acts that are particularly egregious is very troublesome, and I am personally saddened that many of the current crop of “accountability” sites foster more public distrust due to the actions of the “higher ups” that appear (IMHO) to provide “cover” for fellow cops who anybody with a lick of common sense can see stepped over the line.

        I really like your comment that it is truly up to all of us to demand better return on our “investment” when we elect people to office. I can find no excuse for people who knowingly allow “bad apples” in a police force to spoil it for everyone. We either demand action that the leadership of an agency provide to weed out the miscreants, or we elect someone who will take the reins and help.

  7. Pingback: You Say You Want A Revolution | RHDefense: The Law Office of Rick Horowitz

  8. Michael McNutt

    It will sooner or later come down to money. When cities can no longer afford insurance for departments and start having to cough up the cash, than they’ll do something. Local town here wants to give police the money to pay insurance and if it goes up, than cop has to pay the difference. After paying millions over last couple of years this seems to be the only way they can find to end run police unions. Fingers crossed….

    1. SHG Post author

      The marketplace can be a powerful influence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The fact that courts award judgments against the police and government for violation of constitutional rights is a sign of health in an otherwise troubled system.

  9. GEJC

    I gave it some time before I commented here because this post comes at a time of high frustration and hopelessness for me. I’ve been doing criminal defense for a couple of years now and I’ve had enough clients screwed over by bad cops and the judges and prosecutors who close ranks to protect them that justice seems to be rare and difficult to attain. They beat the shit out of my clients and get the benefit of the doubt unless I have video. They lie to grand juries and ask my guy to stipulate to PC to kill the case and cover their asses. They write their reports about the odor of alcohol and dismal performance on SFSTs and then the blood comes back with nothing. Nothing. There will be no accountability for this conduct. 1983 is a crap shoot at best and the formal complaint process is a conflict ridden joke. My people aren’t compensated for the jobs they lose or time they sit in a cage because of their lying or recklessness. They aren’t disciplined and losing a case is treated as just a part of doing business. From a game perspective, their actions place all the risk of loss on the individuals they terrorize.

    I’m not an apologist for murder and don’t think it’s the answer, but the answers we’ve been given so far are laughably inadequate. The government has closed ranks against us, I don’t see the culture changing.

  10. Pingback: Eric Garner’s Killing: The Mindset Is The Issue | Simple Justice

Comments are closed.