Prickett: Taking a Knee

Ed. Note: Greg Prickett is former police officer and supervisor who went to law school, hung out a shingle, and now practices criminal defense and family law in Fort Worth, Texas. While he was a police officer, he was a police firearms instructor, and routinely taught armed tactics to other officers.

Colin Kaepernick started a trend back in 2016 of taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem in protest of police treatment of blacks and the lack of accountability when there are incidents of police brutality or misconduct. Many people spoke out about Kaepernick’s protest, saying that it went to far, and he paid a price for taking a stand.

Then on Memorial Day, 2020, while arresting George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, veteran Officer Derek Chauvin took a knee too. This knee was on the neck of George Floyd, who complained that he wasn’t able to breathe, and then Floyd passed out. Chauvin didn’t relent, however, and kept his knee in place, applying pressure to Floyd’s neck. Floyd died.

Kaepernick is trying to bring attention to the fact that there are two standards in American as to policing. You have one standard on how whites are treated, and another standard as to how people of color are treated. This is perceived due to what happens to white subjects compared to black subjects, and white officers compared to black officers. And the perfect example of that is in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.

In 2016, Saint Anthony, Minnesota[1] Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop. He was tried and acquitted of manslaughter in the death. Yanez was a white Hispanic officer, while Castile was black. In 2017, Justine Diamond was shot and killed by Mohammed Noor, Minneapolis Police officer. Noor was tried and convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison. Noor was black, Diamond was white.

And now police officers wonder why blacks are rioting in the streets of Minneapolis?[2] And even now, the same thing is happening, a disparity between how blacks are treated and how whites are treated. A black CNN journalist, Omar Jimenez, with a cameraman and producer, was arrested by Minnesota State Police even though he identified himself as media and said that he would move where ever the police wanted him to go. Just a block away or so, a white CNN journalist, Josh Campbell, was also contacted by authorities. They identified Campbell as media, did not arrest him, and when needed, told him where to move to.

At PoliceOne.com, the articles covering this are overwhelmingly against the media.

“the media should be arrested every time they false report something or put out fake news.  the media are nothing but a menace and need to be put in there place.  booo hooo”

“I don’t give two sh*ts and a giggle about the media. You wanna get all up into a bad scene and risk gettin’ yer stuff jacked or even worse get injured or seriously killed? [Handle redacted] is all good with it. I have no duty nor the inclination to protect you from yourself or anyone else [a**hat].”

“[F**k] journalists!   I once arrested a reporter and his cameraman for interference with the fire department trying to dig a guy out of his car. Of course we were ordered to let them go after it got back to the higher ups. The reporter kept yelling law suits and the rest. Never happened!”

While that was the majority of comments, there were occasional rational comments.

“This was simply a very bad arrest. Glad the governor intervened and they were released an hour later. What was the State Patrol thinking?”

What the police aren’t realizing is that this is widely perceived to be a problem. You have two idiots in Georgia try to make a citizens arrest of Ahmaud Aubrey, a black man who had apparently committed no crime, and then kill him. One of the two idiots was a retired white cop. Months went by with no arrest until a video came out, at which point the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made arrests.

You have the case of Breonna Taylor, a black EMT, who was shot and killed when the Louisville Metro Police in Kentucky apparently executed a no-knock search warrant in the middle of the night. The police are surprised that the boyfriend of Taylor shoots at the entering officers, thinking that he and Taylor are the victims of a home invasion.

I could go on and on, but the protests over the Floyd killing are popping up all over the nation. The minority community is getting tired of being killed without accountability. There is no reason that the arrest of Chauvin couldn’t have occurred when he was fired. All you need is probable cause to make an arrest, and they had that.

It’s time our leaders get in front of this, and demand that people be held accountable for their actions.

[1] Saint Anthony is a suburb just north of the twin cities, slightly closer to Minneapolis.

[2] Just to make clear, I’m opposed to the riots, those who are destroying property, or looting, etc. should, if they can be identified, be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

26 thoughts on “Prickett: Taking a Knee

  1. mike parr

    “Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard”. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Stanford University, April 14, 1967

    1. SHG Post author

      This quote has been thrown about with some regularity lately, as if it’s a law of thermodynamics. Is “a riot the language of the unheard” because King said so? Is that where thought dies a brutal, painful death, because MLK gave us a platitude?

    2. LocoYokel

      “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
      ― Isaac Asimov, Foundation

      Yes, I posted this in the other forum today but it’s particularly appropriate to respond to this.

      1. Hunting Guy

        Abbie Hoffman.

        “Random violence produces random political results. Why waste even a rock?”

  2. tk

    But it’s more than just holding individuals responsible for their actions, isn’t it? What’s needed is a fundamental shift in the culture of policing in this country. We need to reverse the militarization of police departments that started in the 1960s. We need to stop teaching our police that everyone they meet is a potential threat. If we really want police to be the guardians of their community, we must install in them a respect for the members of their community, and teach them that they are not separate from it or above it.
    It’s very well to say that police want to make sure they go home to their families at the end of their shift. But the rest of us do, too.

    1. SHG Post author

      Greg, I and others here have been making this point for years. If only it was as simple as “stop teaching our police that everyone they meet is a potential threat.” Do “we” teach police? I don’t. Do you?

    2. Erik H

      Policing is a hard, dirty, dangerous, physical, inherently authoritarian job, which involves (sometimes) a need to exhibit aggressiveness and/or violence.

      Policing is also a mentally taxing job, which requires the ability to make accurate, high level, complex decisions on short notice.

      Right now it seems like we initially select for folks who are interested in hard, dirty, dangerous, physical, inherently authoritarian work. Then we try to train them to make accurate, high level, complex decisions on short notice.

      Maybe this is an error.

      At my local public high school, the number in the top 25% who have a declared interest in police work is “zero.” And similarly, at most schools the criminal justice major is not, shall we say, entirely filled with the best and brightest in a college. If you want to go to John Jay School of Criminal Justice in NYC, which produces a lot of cops, you’ll find that 75% of the students have an SAT below 1060, with a median of 990. This is not the “best and brightest” by any means.

      With all due respect to Mr. Prickett, who appears to be unusually above the curve, you can’t pick candidates from a low-level pool and expect them to match a high-level pool in performance. If we want better cops we need smarter cops. And we should definitely *not* allow anyone screen for unusually *unintelligent* cops (which, amazingly, some places do or did–New London CT won a case on that back around 2000, where they deliberately rejected people who were too smart.)

      1. PseudonymousKid

        “Policing is a hard, dirty, dangerous, physical, inherently authoritarian job, which involves (sometimes) a need to exhibit aggressiveness and/or violence.”

        Sure. At the extreme, cops will have to some nasty stuff to get the job done. There’s no need to push the job to the extreme where a given encounter doesn’t necessitate action, though. Deescalation is a thing and can happen. There are models of policing which don’t require indoctrination into the clan of making sure you and your fellow cops make it home alive beyond everything else.

        I’m not so sure intelligence is the factor we should be controlling for here. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand you shouldn’t kill someone on camera by exhibiting at a minimum a disturbing disregard for human life. I don’t think any victim of brutality would care that their killer had a college degree and X hours of training. There’s a systemic and culture problem that needs addressed foremost.

        Anyway, I disagree with you almost entirely except that we seem to agree that cops shouldn’t be killing folks.

        1. SHG Post author

          I often wonder why non-cops understand the mentality of cops so much better than cops do, and why cops won’t just learn how they think and feel from those who are so much better than they are. Of course, you could always join the force, PK, and teach those violent dumbasses how to do it better.

        2. Erik H

          “I’m not so sure intelligence is the factor we should be controlling for here.”

          You probably haven’t read enough intelligence research.

          “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand you shouldn’t kill someone on camera by exhibiting at a minimum a disturbing disregard for human life.”

          Actually, intelligence matters much more than you might think, even for things which seem “simple”, like “don’t kill people.” In the Army infantry, for example, you might say “don’t get shot” is simple, right? But they find that intelligence has a lot to do with fatality rates.

          You want de-escalation: How do you think that skillset develops; do you think good negotiators are dumb? Intelligence can (and does) help you avoid the situation in which you are forced to make the choice between your safety and the safety of the public, so it can prevent that situation in the first place.

          It’s hard to find modern data these days outside (since the intelligence tests are now “discriminatory” and intelligence testing is, to put it mildly, a sensitive subject) but there is ample old data. For example, around 1930 NYC selected a whole pool of police candidates based very heavily on what was basically an intelligence test. That candidate pool was among the most successful in NYC police history.

          “There’s a systemic and culture problem that needs addressed foremost.”
          Good luck addressing that without people who can execute the plan.

          Want officers who can memorize complex procedural rules? That’s intelligence.

          Want officers who can better assess which of the multiple conflicting rules should apply at any point in time? Who can be more easily trained to use complex decision-making systems? Who are more likely to keep multiple solutions in mind and switch rapidly between them? Who can plan more steps ahead? Intelligence.

          Want officers who can work with the uber-complex and rapidly changing world of “system” and “culture? Again: Intelligence.

          Some smart people make bad choices; some dumb people make good choices. Intelligence is only one factor. But on average (and 700,000 cops is a big average) it’s a damned important one.

      2. Sam

        You won’t find a bigger critic of the American model of policing than I, but I think it takes a different kind of intelligence to be effective in law enforcement than to do well on a SAT. I suspect the guys I worked with in the Army would score far lower on a SAT than those I met in college, but most people who met both would agree that the soldier was far better mentally equipped to be a police officers than the college students.
        Rules of engagement can be tricky and I watched Army high school graduates make complicated, but correct life and death decisions of a daily basis. There is no “I was scared for my safety” rule that trumps all else included in the rules of engagement.
        Perhaps Sam Spade captured it best in the Maltese Falcon. Our society has a low opinion, but high expectation of the police. Somethings gotta give.

        1. SHG Post author

          In framing an argument, you might do well to consider primary and recency. You start with “all about you,” which probably doesn’t matter as much to anyone else as it matters to you, and you end with a Maltese Falcon reference, which doesn’t contribute anything. In the middle, you make an actual point, but it’s buried. If you want to be persuasive, it behooves you not to bury the only point that might influence anyone else.

      3. Gregory Prickett

        A single point only. New London didn’t really DQ the applicant for his IQ, they wanted him DQ’d for his age, but since legally they couldn’t do that, they came up with the IQ BS which has been used in internet arguments ever since.

        A local department won’t hire anyone without at least a BA/BS degree. On of my law school classmates is an officer there–with a JD. My old department paid for degrees and paid for you to go to school. One sergeant had two masters and was working on his PhD. We had a university professor that came to work for us. About half of the officers had degrees and most of the rest were working on them.

        The police are stupid argument won’t fly with me.

  3. cthulhu

    “Yanez was a white Hispanic officer, while Castile was black.”

    Serious question: what is a “white Hispanic”?

    1. Greg Prickett

      Hispanic is a person’s ethnicity, not their race. Hispanics can be white or black, as an example, Omar Jimenez (CNN reporter in the article) considers himself to be both black and Hispanic. Both race and ethnicity are reported on arrests, so I would be classified as a white male, non-Hispanic.

  4. Jackson

    Interesting article about this problem. For sure this man did not deserve to die. And I agree that the officer should have been arrested sooner for the death this man.
    As for MLK, well I have never read to seen footage of him burning or destroying anything! If anything he had a bible with him! We can all learn a lot from his example. I have no issue with anyone protesting wrongs do to them or others. But if you destroy others property that had nothing to do with what occurred, well that is criminal in my mind. Lastly anytime I see protesters wearing masks it screams coward to me. Same with the cops! Be a man or woman and show who you are and what you stand for!

  5. Sam

    “As for MLK, well I have never read to seen footage of him burning or destroying anything!”

    Did you ever wonder why MLK confined his civil disobedience in the south?

    I did. My professors out west told me some version of racism is a uniquely southern trait.

    I learned years later that at least one reason involved the failure of media to show up when black people protested peacefully and got the crap beat out of them in other parts of the country. For peaceful civil disobedience to work you need the media and a population outraged at your mistreatment by overwhelming force.

    Perhaps the lack of those two things continue to make peaceful civil disobedience less effective in places like Minneapolis.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re young, as this was a reinvention of what happened in the ’60s to fit neatly within the critical theory narrative that’s now being taught as if gospel. Be careful believing too passionately. It’s now part of the irrefutable myth of the civil rights movement so it must be true.

      1. Sam

        You’re old and this is your blawg, so I’ll defer to you on this.
        That and the elegant version of events is rarely the correct one, so you may have something here.
        My delicate ego won’t allow me to post anything I feel passionate about, but I can’t help but feel a little inadequate that my comment did not rise to the level of a SG zinger.
        I’ll try harder in the future provided I’m allowed to try at all.

        1. SHG Post author

          It’s not your fault you were taught this, and there would be no way you would know since you weren’t alive then.

  6. David Sanders

    MLK was a great man. No doubt. However, one reason he is revered is because of how he died. Had he died of natural causes like most people, he would’ve been known as a good civil rights leader, But not nearly as revered as he is today.

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