The Police Get Their Man (and no one was harmed)

In light of the inane efforts of the clueless (and some police) to rationalize the killing of Eric Garner, suggesting that there is no possibility of the police doing their job with a “noncompliant” person that doesn’t end in harm, Kevin Underhill at Lowering The Bar presents an alternative.

According to KTVB in Boise, the incident began when deputies suggested to a 21-year-old man that he might have violated the terms of his probation. The report says the man was on probation for stalking, and it appears that there had been an encounter between the man and the stalkee. He claimed that she, not he, had violated the no-contact order, but the deputies “discovered that was not true.” It’s not clear what evidence they had to support this, but either it was enough to convince the man he was busted or he suddenly remembered something very urgent he had to do in the direction police weren’t.

Flight is almost invariably cause to pull out a weapon, whether lethal or mostly lethal, rather than let the perp get away.  But not here.

This led to a 15-minute chase through suburban yards, onto a golf course, and then into the aforementioned pond. (You can call it a “water hazard” if you want to, but I’m sticking with “pond.”) And that led to the standoff, such as it was.

Certainly, the perp’s refusal to comply with the police demands that he surrender himself without their need to get their uniform wet provided cause to take swift and harsh action. And lest it be ignored, the offense for which this perp was sought was a probation violation, which by definition means he was already adjudicated a criminal and had a sheet. And yet:

“Deputies were able to coax him out of the water after about 30 minutes,” says the report, “during which time only one golf ball landed near him.”

Extraordinary.  The police got their man. No weapon was used. No person was harmed, whether perp or cop, and everyone involved survived to eat dinner that night.

As ExCop-LawStudent commented in response to the insanity of the irrelevant and irrational attempt to justify the killing of Eric Garner,

I dealt with hundreds of people that hated the police.

I didn’t kill any of them.

The point is if the officer uses the proper procedures, he won’t be in that position.

The point is that resort to force and violence other than in defense of force or for the protection of another from harm is unjustifiable.  Sure, it may mean that the police have to run, on occasion, after a fleeing perp.  It may require patience, waiting out an untenable situation when there are other things the police would rather be doing.  Suffering the annoyance of a person who just won’t do what the cops tell him to do.  But contempt of cop isn’t a capital crime.  Indeed, it’s usually not a crime at all.

While Kevin’s post, as always, finds the humor in the law, behind it is a very real, very important tactic that will save many from harm, cop and perp alike.  Patience.

There is a fallacy, perpetuated to justify the use of force in situations where it was never needed, that the police must act with immediacy, to stop the perp and compel compliance, or society will unravel before their eyes.  This is, of course, utter nonsense.

There are times when force is required. There are times when a situation is emergent, and the police are constrained to act.  But the ability to distinguish between those situations demanding an immediate response including the use  of force, and those where it’s nothing more than waiting out a guy who put himself into an untenable situation, is why we trust them enough to let them wear a shield.

The guy was standing in a water hazard (apologies to Kevin). He wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t threatening anyone.  Nor was Eric Garner.  This guy lived. Eric Garner did not.  We can laugh about what happened with the guy in the water hazard.  We cannot laugh about what happened to Eric Garner.

Life and death, and a laugh and tears, hang by the thinnest of threads.


13 thoughts on “The Police Get Their Man (and no one was harmed)

  1. skitch

    All of these negative actions are the result of ‘All our’ decisions to allow ‘someone’ else to handle the ‘dirty work,’ the difficult job dealing with what ‘we’ choose not to or that which physically, we’re not able to deal with, the numerous elements that these individuals encounter daily. Thomas Jefferson sums it up pretty well, quote: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
    ― Letters of Thomas Jefferson

  2. Turk

    Not a bad story, though not as good as the movie version: Paul Newman disarming a knife-wielding crazy guy in Fort Apache, the Bronx by out-crazying him.

    Kinda sad that the mundane becomes newsworthy. There are probably a couple cops that would have tasered the water trap, just to see what happened.

    1. Myles

      What’s your problem with Kevin Underhill, or do you just have some weird need to always try to one-up SHG? I like your blog and you seem like a nice guy over there, but whenever you comment here, you’re always trying to take a swip at SHG. What’s up with that?

      1. SHG Post author

        I think he meant it as a joke, though I’ve deleted about a dozen similar comments offering various people’s thoughts about what are better examples than Kevin’s post. I, obviously, chose Kevin’s post to make the point. There are plenty of other examples, but I chose Kevin’s. But Turk is a friend so I didn’t trash his comment.

        [Edit: I wrote a mean comment in reply to Turk’s about this, then I deleted. He makes me nuts lately. I know he doesn’t mean to, and I still love him, but he does.]

        1. Myles

          Fair enough. I’ll keep my nose out of whatever’s going on between the two of you. At least he’s not being mean to Kevin.

          1. Turk

            The Fort Apache comment was, indeed, a joke, meant to bring a small smile to those that remember a nutty scene that was kinda, sorta, almost related in a fictitious way.

            The larger point remains.

            1. SHG Post author

              Oh. Now that you explain it, it’s kinda humorous. I bet it did bring a small smile to someone,

            2. Turk

              Oh. Now that you explain it, it’s kinda humorous. I bet it did bring a small smile to someone

              I’m thinking of quitting my day job and taking my act on the road. I figure I’ll spend 25% of my time telling jokes and 75% explaining them, though I fear I may be too optimistic.

              On an actually relevant note to your posting, today’s NYT has an editorial, Broken Windows, Broken lives (aka Zero Tolerance), about the dubious effect of using strong arm tactics for relentlessly attacking petty offenses.

              It’s a conceptual contrast between cops escalating interactions with commands to immediately comply, versus the ideas of patience, perseverance and de-escalation.

              I’d rather see a cop on a bike than a cop in a tank.

  3. bill

    This chase started and took place in an upper middle class neighborhood. The cost of a misfire or the Pr blowback of rushing things is a lot higher. If you look at the Garner situation, there’s a disgustingly large # of people that think a thug got what he deserved. I think it’s safe to say that cops in the Eagle Hills neighborhood are in the habit of treating people a little nicer than the cops in Garner’s neighborhood and the reverse is likely true. Sadly, There are plenty of people that will see complete consistency here – many make sure to mind their manners at the CEO’s house party, and even treat the ‘hired help’ with respect while feeling just fine talking down to the guy behind the counter of the bodega. There’s clearly a lesson to be learned here, but I really doubt the right people will pay attention to it.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Must be some wired inverse mojo going on when suburban back yards are within running distance of the water hazard on the 18th fairway. Probably puts the cops in some sort of pacifist trance. Could be the yard chemicals though?

    But what really pisses me off is you can’t by a loose cig from the beer cart babe let alone smoke on golf courses anymore.

    P.S. I would have taken at least four mulligans attempting to land the ball between the cops and the “criminal” and shouted out 5-0 every time.

  5. Fubar

    From handwritten marginalia on a newspaper clipping reporting this incident, found in the library of eminent organizational psychologist Dr. François-Marie Pangloss, PhD, shortly after his untimely death from injuries inflicted during an unfortunate traffic stop for failure to signal a right turn:

    Cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.

    The constabulary’s aquatic
    Adventures are not just exotic.
    They arrested a clown
    Without beating him down.
    And thus proved they’re not always psychotic.

  6. Ed

    Stories like this are nice to hear. Especially after the Eric Garner situation that you mentioned and after some of the shootings that have happened in Albuquerque awhile back. Force isn’t always needed.

    1. SHG Post author

      I hope it reminds people who want to scream that all cops are evil that some cops can be good guys. We need to maintain perspective on all the bad news.

Comments are closed.