P.O. Jonathan Aledda: A Cop’s Truth

This was the best they could come up with:

The officer “thought Kinsey’s life was in danger,” John Rivera, head of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, said at a news conference.

The idea is that if they throw words against the wall, others will take them seriously, or at least seriously enough to discuss them as if there was some potential they could be an accurate reflection of what happened. This is, of course, a gambit. The police union knows that its job is to cover its cops, and its efforts to test how gullible the public is have often proven shockingly effective.

This all refers to the shooting of Charles Kinsey in a ubiquitous video, with Kinsey lying in the road, hands up, trying to explain that the autistic man next to him was playing with a toy truck and not a gun. Or even a Wii. Kinsey was picture perfect in his conduct, compliant to a fault. So, Aledda shot him anyway, with a long gun from a distance, because you can’t get too close to an autistic man with a toy truck or it could be thrown at him and take his eye out.

Do we take seriously the claim that Aledda’s gravest fault was bad aim, that his purpose was to kill the truck-threatening autistic man when he shot Kinsey in the knee instead?  No. Even Elie Mystal, who has grown quite cynical of late about police shootings, gives it the barest credence.

That’s just not a credible story. Those just aren’t the actions of a person.

Either the cops here are monsters, or they are liars. Either way, something pretty awful went down in Miami.

Or perhaps they’re neither monsters nor liars, but cops. When they do wrong, they feed the public tropes to cover their actions. It’s a lie, but they aren’t exactly liars. They’re cops, and what cops do is throw their laundry list of cop excuses for failures against the public wall to see what sticks. Even if nothing sticks, they’ve muddied the waters enough that their die-hard fans will find enough to seize upon to believe and forgive.

As for the good people who may not exactly adore cops enough to believe anything, at least they can sleep at night believing that they aren’t so flagrantly incompetent or malevolent that they need fear the police more than a crackhead.

But that doesn’t make the tropes, the excuses real. It’s just part of the job, covering up the bad ones because it reflects poorly on the job.  After Aledda shot Kinsey, he cuffed him, rolled him and left him on the ground to bleed. There is no magical explanation for this. Aledda wasn’t sure he wasn’t a threat, and wasn’t about to take any chances.

“It appeared to the officers that the white male was trying to do harm to Mr. Kinsey,” Rivera said. “In fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life and he missed.”

It was the best Rivera could come up with. What else could a cop union president say in defense of his member?  Remember, among the purposes served by police unions is to present the most extreme, outrageous defense of his officers no matter what, so that later excuses offered by officials seem less ridiculous. The big lie makes the lesser lie seem less absurd.

The union released a statement, putatively from Aledda, though that too is a test of our gullibility:

“I took this job to save lives and help people,” the officer said in a statement released Thursday by the union. “I did what I had to do in a split second to accomplish that and hate to hear others paint me as something I’m not.”

It may not be a masterwork, but it covers a few more tropes.  “Save lives and help people.”  Hey, Aledda is a good guy, well-intended, here to help. So he screwed up? Cut him a break, as he’s a good guy. “Did what I had to do,” a meaningless phrase beloved by people for whom action without thinking is the American way.  This covers a lot, as we see a situation that appears to call for action, and Aledda acted. Since Americans prefer not to hurt themselves by thinking too hard, we can well understand that the same was true for Aledda. We’re a people who appreciate action, even wrong action, when the situation demands we “do something.”

And then, of course, there is the primo rationalization, the “split second” decision.  Of course, there was no need for a split second decision here. Take a full second. Take an hour. Take all day. Americans have long since accepted the proposition that police have better things to do with their time than not shoot, not kill, people. Repeat this nonsense phrase enough, and it almost seems real.

There was no decision to be made, except perhaps to listen to what the people on whom your scope was trained are saying. Then look at what they’re doing, what they’ve got in their hands. to verify that the austistic man was holding a toy truck rather than a Glock. You can tell the difference because one is a gun and the other has toy truck wheels. Can’t see it from 50 yards away? Well, there are hi-tech means of making distant objects appear closer so that you can see them better.  If Aledda wanted to “do what he had to do,” pulling out some binoculars would have been worthwhile action.

Still, some will reject the notion that sometimes it’s all just a huge, total botch, driven by the First Rule of Policing in combination with the knowledge that any mistake will be wiped clean by the latitude we give the police to “save lives and help people” and the security of platitudes about nobody being perfect. They will demand an explanation for why Aledda did what he did, as if he was an evil player, a racist, a killer, a monster.

The answer can’t be proven, because it resides in Aledda’s head, but it’s really not a tough question to answer. Aledda arrived at the scene in response to a call that there was a suicidal man with a gun. He began under the belief that there was a potential for harm to him. He wasn’t about to bet his life on the truthfulness of what Kinsey was saying. He was trained with the fear that a man with a gun could aim it at him and pull the trigger in a split second and kill him. And he wasn’t going to die that day, so he fired first.

So you see, it’s not that the cops lied. It’s that they’re cops, and Aledda “did what he had to do” to make sure he made it home for dinner. Thankfully, because they’re cops, Aledda’s bullets killed no one because he was a lousy shot.

24 thoughts on “P.O. Jonathan Aledda: A Cop’s Truth

  1. Dick Taylor

    The story morphed in the first hours, when the shooter said (allegedly, but the only one making sense in all of this is the therapist) “I don’t know” why he did it, to the line they settled on. It almost makes you think that some police union guy decided that it would be better to be tragically but intentionally mistaken and a fortunately lousy shot than to admit to being careless and poorly trained, pointing a loaded gun in the general direction of a harmless man and fondling the trigger like a nitwit. If I didn’t have supreme and abiding faith in the integrity of police statements, I might also note that three rounds were fired, only one of which hit a human being, and that the “three-round burst” setting on an M4 (which only cops can have because civilians would be careless) is horizontal, like “safe”, and can be difficult to distinguish by touch. But that would only be if I lacked the requisite faith.

    I will forgo the rant, but as the father of a severely autistic young man who could easily have been this young man, this one hit me very hard. Thank God for the therapist and his actions.

    1. Jonathan Levy

      I thought this might be an accidental discharge but couldn’t make sense of the 3 shots.

      1. SHG Post author

        There was never any suggestion of an accidental discharge, which would have been a much better explanation than any other.

        1. REvers

          Absent some sort of (rare) weapon malfunction, there are no accidental discharges. There is only stupid.

      2. juan

        I thought so too. It’s probably that Aledda had his rifle selector on “BURST” which fires a three-round burst of bullets (as opposed to SEMI which only fires one round at a time or SAFE which prevents a discharge if the trigger is pulled). In Army basic training, I shot my M16 in BURST only once during a life-fire exercise at night.

  2. Rich Lawrence

    The SWAT or Tactical Team Commander at this incident has since been suspended by the City of North Miami Police. According to the City Manager, he gave conflicting accounts of events to investigators from an outside agency (FDLE – our version of state police). The first time I have ever seen a “we will not tolerate this type of behavior” at the beginning of an investigation rather than a year later. This particular city government reflects the demographics of the community more than most in the Miami area, likely the reason for the rapid response to public outrage rather than the typical slow-roll.

    1. SHG Post author

      “Ooh, ooh, ooh, I have extraneous information that doesn’t bear on the issue, so I need to show how smart I am and let everyone know!!!” Thank you for sharing.

      1. losingtrader

        wow, I really get to add to the list of SHGism’s on the weekend.

        Ever since Miami had it’s run-in with the vampire face-eater, I’m surprised I haven’t heard this as a cop fear in a shooting. Just trying to be…..provocative

  3. Patrick Maupin

    “…if they throw words against the wall…”

    Aiming words at the wall is always a hit-or-miss proposition, just like the actions that got them there in the first place. Here’s hoping for more misses in both cases.

    In any case, it’s getting rarer and rarer to see the police chief echoing the union boss. Management’s had enough, and a lot of individual police have had enough, but could it ever be enough to make a change in the union politics? It would be awesome to hear a police union boss say “that was a terrible shoot and we stripped him of his membership.”

    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t really want to utter these words out loud, but there are cracks developing in the culture suggesting that there is hope of change. Then again, bastions of support for the old culture remains. Whenever I have moments of cautious optimism, something happens to make me regret my idealism.

      1. Nick L. EMT-P

        Is there anything you’re seeing from the educational or institutional side? I can only remember one article in the last coupe of years, e.g., NYT: U.S. Police Leaders, Visiting Scotland, Get Lessons on Avoiding Deadly Force, DEC. 11, 2015.

  4. Rich Lawrence

    Oh you are so harsh SHG ! Been lurking for a long time without comment to avoid the sting of your razor sharp wit; guess it had to happen sooner or later. Not extraneous is the fact that this is one of the few times we have seen the correct response from the police and city administration (PBA official clearly excluded). That was the main point of my post. This is extraneous: who needs more hour of training in Florida to obtain a state certification: Hair Dressers or cops?

    1. SHG Post author

      Glad you came out of the shadows, then. But use the reply button next time.

      That was the main point of my post.

      That was a comment. I write the posts. You write comments to my posts. You’re welcome.

  5. Paul L.

    At the risk of being called too cynical. I suspect this is a case of “But for the video.”
    I suspect that the Police handcuffed Mr. Kinsey because they were planning to claim his actions caused him to be shot.
    PBA head news conference was a great example of Police PR 101
    “Be responsible in your reporting, We’re asking the community to please allow facts — not sensationalism, not politics — facts to allow to work their way through the system.”
    I was surprised that the PBA head that not use the passive voice and say “the officer’s weapon discharged.” instead of “the officer discharged his firearm”

  6. Mario Machado

    Even for a union police chief, John Rivera always goes the extra ten miles in insulting people’s intelligence. His comments are also unnecessarily vile, even when the victim is a child: his immediate response to Tamir Rice’s death: “act like a thug, and you’ll be treated like one.”

    1. SHG Post author

      That would make for a great game show, Cop Union Bluster!!! Or maybe, Cop Union Presidents Say The Darndest Things.

  7. John Barleycorn

    Binoculars? Who are you kidding? You obviious have not seen the new Hot Wheels Monster Jam Truck Series line up yet.

    No one would have missed the new episode of Americian Ninja Warrior that night if we cared about cops and equipped every armored squad car with a remotely deployable camera equipped robot packing some C-4, one of them new and improved gatling guns, and a teddy bear.

    P.S. You would be optimistic if you had been an angle investor in my Speciality Police Robot Accessories and Teddy Bear Company.

  8. B. McLeod

    I understand that the alternate explanation they were working on was that Kinsey’s outstretched arms caused the officers to conclude that he was a zombie, and was trying to get up. After careful consideration, they decided to go with this one instead.

  9. marc r

    Broward cancelled the PBA as a bargaining unit for BSO.

    “Roughly 10 million police-civilian interactions occur each day without any LEO gunshots hitting a prone non-suspect. An infiinitsely small event occurred. Using basic calculus, the number of above-described interactions so quickly approaches zero that it is synonymous with zero. And thus, mathematically the event basically never occurred. Zeno’s Paradox, etc.”

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