Author Archives: SHG

It’s A Poor Mechanic Who Blames The Terry Stop

After the monumentally disturbing op-ed in the Washington Post by “homeland security” professor Sunil Dutta,  I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me, Judge Richard Kopf posed an interesting question:

I wonder whether Terry v. Ohio, improperly understood and mistakenly taught in police academies to give virtually unlimited power to stop (and frisk) citizens as they go about their business, emboldened generations of cops to be overly aggressive when they encounter citizens who simply don’t look right? If I am right that Terry is at least partially responsible for the Robo Cop mentality that you decry, then maybe someone ought to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider. In my view, unless Terry goes away, “stand and deliver” is the sensible mantra for citizens accosted by overzealous cops.

As commenters noted, Justice William O. Douglas in dissent on Terry thought this was a really bad decision:

To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment.

What they’re talking about is the dreaded Terry Stop, where police can stop and question a person based upon a “reasonable suspicion,” meaning “articulable facts” that a person has, is or will be committing a crime. If there is a reasonable basis to believe the person poses a threat, they can pat down clothing for weapons. Continue reading

A Test of Sorts: Kajieme Powell

A question was posed about what could have been going through Kajieme Powell as he waited for St. Louis police to arrive.  Lacking that magical power to read the minds of others, to project my thoughts into his and assume they were valid, I demurred.  Of course, Powell can’t explain because he’s dead.

The background was unsatisfying.

Authorities said Kajieme Powell stole donuts and energy drinks from a store yesterday afternoon, which prompted the owner to call police, according to KSDK. When two officers arrived shortly before 1 p.m., they said they observed Powell acting erratically. He refused to put down a knife when commanded to do so, police said.

Witnesses said the suspect yelled, “Shoot me now. Kill me now,” before approaching officers. Some people who saw the shooting described it as “suicide by cop,” according to USA Today.

Maybe.  Or maybe Powell, a few miles away from Ferguson, decided to test the police, to challenge them to kill another young black man. Maybe he thought he would be a martyr to the cause. Or maybe he suffered from mental illness and lacked the ability to recognize that what he was doing was not merely wrong, but fatally dangerous.  Maybe Powell could explain, but he can’t. He’s dead. Continue reading

Being Right Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

To a UC Santa Barbara professor of feminist studies, there are small wrongs and big wrongs.  Mireille Miller-Young committed a small wrong, for which she offered a small apology in anticipation of sentence:

“As much as the images they displayed were offensive and distressing to my students, and to me, I had no right to take their poster or destroy it,” she writes.

The poster refers to the anti-abortion poster used by Thrin and Joan Short.  Miller-Young saw it, lost it, seized it and, in the process, committed battery on Thrin.  But all this, from the suppression of ideas Miller-Young found wrong to the physical harm of Short, was secondary to the big wrong.  The big wrong was that the Shorts were WRONG, WRONG, WRONG about abortion, meaning that they must be silenced and their ideas must be eradicated by any means necessary.

Not surprisingly, there was strong, perhaps even overwhelming support, for the feminist prof.  Those who agreed with her backed her up, because the Shorts were WRONG.   The inability to distinguish between the process of allowing people to express their thoughts even when they differ from your own is apparently too much to bear when they are WRONG,  Thankfully, Miller-Young possessed no weapons at the time.

Others who shared Miller-Young’s certainty that any ideas inconsistent with her own were wrong stood up for her at sentence to explain her behavior. Continue reading

The Limits of Cameras

One question that keeps poking its ugly head through the mist of obfuscation in Ferguson, Missouri, is why the police have the full panoply of weapons for an invasion of Fallujah, but there was no camera to be had when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown down in the street.  So many questions might have been answered, quickly and cleanly, if only a neutral record existed.

But it didn’t. No body cam. No dash cam. No cameras to be had.

Cameras are the answer, many have said.  And they may well have been, in this instance. Unless, of course, something went “wrong.”  Our reliance on extrinsic solutions, particularly those tech tools that, in theory, would facilitate the desired clarity, is well-placed only to the extent two things occur: the tech works, and humans don’t get in the way.

Via Jonathan Turley,

In New Orleans, Armand Bennet, 26, was shot in the forehead during a traffic stop by New Orleans police officer Lisa Lewis. However, the police department did not reveal until much later that Lewis turned off her body camera just before shooting Bennett. Bennett survived and has now been charged under prior warrants for his arrest. It also reviewed that Lewis had had a prior run in with Bennet who escaped about a week earlier.

Continue reading

Cooperate Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

Via Reason’s Matt Welch, the Washington Post provides the insight of 17-year LAPD veteran turned “homeland security” professor at Colorado Tech University, Sunil Dutta, as to the mindset of the police officer on the mean streets of Ferguson. Lest there be any doubt as to where this is heading, it’s entitled, I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.

Don’t start spitting yet. Wait for the deeper insight into how terribly wrong we are to misunderstand everything coming out of Ferguson, from the killing of Michael Brown to the management of the community.  There is a very real problem, according to Dutta. We don’t get it.

It is also a terrible calumny; cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed. And while they’re unlikely to defend it quite as loudly during a time of national angst like this one, people who work in law enforcement know they are legally vested with the authority to detain suspects — an authority that must sometimes be enforced. Regardless of what happened with Mike Brown, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is not the cops, but the people they stop, who can prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.

Continue reading

Getting The News Out of Ferguson

“This is what they do on national TV. Imagine what they do when you aren’t watching.”

–Don Lemon, CNN

Within the framework of how happily one surrenders constitutional rights whenever someone in a uniform issues a command, the “dynamic” situation in Ferguson, Missouri presents an image of information asymmetry that raises huge concerns.  The organized “media” (let’s not fight over what that means for now) is being corralled, restrained and even arrested, almost as if they were citizens of lesser value.

Via the Guardian, Getty photographer Scott Olson was led away in plastic cuffs.  Ryan Reilly of HuffPo and Wesley Lowery of WaPo were arrested in McDonalds.  They just wouldn’t do as they were told. Or at least not fast enough. Continue reading

The View From Black, White and Blue

When the story of Michael Brown’s killing broke, my first post began with these words:

There may be a good explanation for why Ferguson, Missouri, a mostly black working-class suburb of St. Louis, had a white mayor and police force. There might be a good explanation for why an unarmed, 18-year-old high school graduate, Michael Brown, was shot down in the street.  But if so, nobody has said so yet.  The only thing for which there is a good explanation is why Brown won’t be starting technical school today. That’s because he’s dead.

The two-thirds of Ferguson who protested the killing have been subject to substantial scrutiny, far more than the shooting of Brown at the time.  That’s because there was a deafening silence from the police.  There was a half-baked press release, replete with the usual ambiguous jargon that gives rise to more questions than answers, to justify the killing.  On the other side, witnesses came forward, subjected themselves to questioning, or not.

On Sunday, the one-third of Ferguson came out, protesting that Police Officer Darren Wilson has been “victimized” for doing his job.  They were peaceful and well-behaved, without fear of being dispersed by tear gas and rubber bullets. There were about a dozen police officers monitoring the protest, five on bicycles instead of armored personnel carriers. Their purpose was to defend the police: Continue reading

An Unfair Fight (Gratuitous Irrelevant Update)

The mantra in support of the militarization of police has a catchiness to it: in a battle between the police and criminals, we don’t want a fair fight.  And no reasonable person can disagree.  But the mantra is loaded, as any good mantra should be.  First, it assumes that the police are opposed to criminals. Second, it assumes there to be a fight.  This is where the argument in favor of militarization goes off the rails.

In the National Review, Jay Nordinger does his utmost to distort the issue by posting a “letter from a reader, who is a policeman.”  The cop offers “his day today”:

We went to serve a drug and gun warrant. The house had surveillance cameras and reinforced doors. Which means they had plenty of warning that we were coming. As the TAC team makes entry, a suspect peeks out the window, sees the cover team standing outside, and fires a round at us. Lucky for us, he’s a bad shot. The TAC team soon takes all four occupants into custody without further incident.

Assuming, arguendo, that this is a true story, it superficially appears to answer the question of why police need SWAT teams, armored carriers, military clothing, armor and equipment.  Upon deeper consideration, it begs many questions.  To their credit, the police went to the right house. After all, they sometimes go to the wrong house in their rush to act without confirming information or gathering intelligence beforehand. Continue reading

Another Saturday Night In Ferguson

Thursday night saw a calm return to the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.  It didn’t last long.

Hours after Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri imposed a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on Saturday in this small city, a group of protesters defied the order and violence flared briefly on Sunday morning, after a week of demonstrations over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

A clash between the protesters and dozens of police officers in riot gear began less than 30 minutes after the curfew took effect and ended about 45 minutes later with the arrest of seven people, all charged with “failure to disperse.”

The justification was that there were some people engaged in violence:

Protesters tossed at least one bottle rocket, the police said, and at the sound of apparent gunshots from a restaurant down the street, demonstrators scrambled to safety.

So the rights of all were terminated with extreme prejudice. Continue reading

The Militarization of Movie Theaters

Perhaps the defining feature of crazy people is that they’re unpredictable.  Except in Aurora, Colorado, where United States District Court  Judge R. Brooke Jackson held that the Cinemark Theater where James Holmes committed “madman’s mass murder” during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

From the Denver Post:

Noting “the grim history of mass shootings and mass killings that have occurred in more recent times,” U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that Cinemark — owner of the Century Aurora 16 theater — could have predicted that movie patrons might be targeted for an attack.

What “grim history” would that be?  Are there crazies slaughtering people in theaters all the time?  Is it just Batman movies, just midnight screenings, or does Bambi count?  Regardless, holding that the theater “could have predicted” the act of a madman is akin to saying they could have predicted a meteor shower or abduction by space aliens.  Far more people are harmed by being struck by lightning than by a crazy with a gun, which the judge apparently recognized:

“Although theaters had theretofore been spared a mass shooting incident, the patrons of a movie theater are, perhaps even more than students in a school or shoppers in a mall, ‘sitting ducks,’ ” Jackson wrote.

Continue reading

Putting Their Life On The Line (for minimum wage)

At Law Enforcement Today, Eric Aguiar makes an eminently reasonable, and very scary, proposal:  Arm and properly train TSA officers.  For now, they’re the joke of law enforcement, recruited from pizza boxes, given enough training to be unaware that a driver’s license from the District of Columbia is ‘merican, and paid worse than the gal at the Dairy Queen counter.

And they are on the front line of Terrorist Theater.

Even so, they are out in public, wearing uniforms, giving orders, molesting children, taking a risk.

On November 1, 2013 a TSA officer was shot and killed at point blank range by a rifle at a Los Angeles airport.

If we had to venture and propose a reason as to why TSA was targeted we would surmise that, tactically, it is because they are the only unarmed law enforcement division at the airport and arguably the least trained. Does it make sense to give an unarmed officer an assignment as sensitive as checking for weapons and contraband?

Well no, it doesn’t.  But then, they aren’t there to play junior DEA agent, even though every jerk with a shield dreams of being a hero.  But I digress. Continue reading