In the New York Times, Matt Apuzzo profiles one of the most dangerous men in law enforcement. And he’s not even a cop. His name is William J. Lewinski, and for $1000 an hour, he will explain why every person killed by a cop was a righteous shoot.
Dr. Lewinski said he was not trying to explain away every shooting. But when he testifies, it is almost always in defense of police shootings. Officers are his target audience — he publishes a newsletter on police use of force that he says has nearly one million subscribers — and his research was devised for them. “The science is based on trying to keep officers safe,” he said.
This, of course, is just as much bullshit as his doctorate and his science. To his credit, Lewinksi manufactured his credentials the old fashioned way, building a resume out of publishing pandering stories in police magazines, getting hired to train cops in how to shoot first and make it home for dinner, and ‘splaining why they can do no wrong in trial after trial. The guy is an apology machine.
Raising a Gun and Running Away
A video, taken as part of one of William J. Lewinski’s studies, shows how quickly suspects can raise a gun and turn to run. Dr. Lewinski uses videos like this to explain why police officers shoot suspects in the back.
See? No, the person didn’t aim. No, there is nothing to suggest that this could actually pose a threat under real world circumstances. But it’s video like this that is used to show how cops shoot people in the back and, more importantly, why cops have to shoot before they know that a person is a threat. By the time they see a gun, it’s too late, according to Lewinski.
And really, isn’t the point of law enforcement to assure that it’s the cop who lives? So what if unarmed people are killed. That’s the price we have to pay to keep our cops alive.
A Gun in the Car
This video simulates a driver with a gun stashed in the center console. It is used to help demonstrate how officers cannot always wait to see a gun before reacting.
He summarized his findings in 1999 in The Police Marksman, a popular magazine for officers. The next year, it published an expanded study, in which Dr. Lewinski timed students as they fired while turning, running or sitting with a gun at their side, as if stashed in a car’s console.
Suspects, he concluded, could reach, fire and move remarkably fast. But faster than an officer could react? In 2002, a third study concluded that it takes the average officer about a second and a half to draw from a holster, aim and fire.
Together, the studies appeared to support the idea that officers were at a serious disadvantage.
Not only can Lewinski explain away any cop shooting, but he does it well.
Dr. Lewinski, 70, is affable and confident in his research, but not so polished as to sound like a salesman. In testimony on the stand, for which he charges nearly $1,000 an hour, he offers winding answers to questions and seldom appears flustered. He sprinkles scientific explanations with sports analogies.
“A batter can’t wait for a ball to cross home plate before deciding whether that’s something to swing at,” he told the Los Angeles deputy sheriffs. “Make sense? Officers have to make a prediction based on cues.”
Of course, it follows that batters will sometimes swing at bad pitches, and that officers will sometimes shoot unarmed people.
But what about those instances where a police officer’s claims of what caused him to kill are proven to be utterly false? No problemo. Lewinski to the rescue.
Such gaps in observation and memory, he says, can be explained by a phenomenon called inattentional blindness, in which the brain is so focused on one task that it blocks out everything else. When an officer’s version of events is disproved by video or forensic evidence, Dr. Lewinski says, inattentional blindness may be to blame. It is human nature, he says, to try to fill in the blanks.
“Whenever the cop says something that’s helpful, it’s as good as gold,” said Mr. Burton, the California lawyer. “But when a cop says something that’s inconvenient, it’s a result of this memory loss.”
For those who wonder how cops get acquitted of murder when the evidence is overwhelming, look for Lewinski. There is a good chance he was there, or at least his methods.
While Lewinski’s scientific chops may be laughable, there is one thing that cannot be denied: the guy is a master apologist, and has been accepted as an expert over and over. So what if the resume is manufactured. So what if no court would allow the other side the latitude to call an expert to refute him. Lewinski is, if nothing else, special.
But there is one foundational assumption upon which his testimony is based, and it strikes a chord with people who don’t believe they will ever be on the wrong end of a gun, or people we call “jurors.” Matt Apuzzo quotes a comment to his article on twitter:
If somebody is going to die, it shouldn’t be a cop. And when a cop kills an unarmed person, it’s because the person didn’t conduct himself the way he should have to assure that he wouldn’t be killed. Don’t blame the cop, because his life comes first.
The First Rule of Policing. Somebody is going to make it home for dinner, and if there is any question at all, it won’t be you. Courtesy of Bill Lewinski.