Short Take: Outrage, Misdirected

Some argue that the answer is more black cops on the force, but that didn’t help 17-year-old Alvin Cole.

Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah will not face criminal charges in the fatal shooting of Alvin Cole, District Attorney John Chisholm announced Wednesday evening.

Mensah shot and killed Cole on Feb. 2 outside of Mayfair Mall. Police said the 17-year-old had fired at officers first before being shot. A report from an independent investigator found, however, that “Cole did not fire at Officer Mensah or any other officer. Cole shot himself in the arm while running away from the officers.”

The problem is that Mensah isn’t some white supremacist neo-Nazi cop. He’s a black cop. The other problem is that even though Cole shot himself in the arm, he had a gun and he fired it while being pursued by the cops. If you’re a cop and some guy you’re chasing fired a gun, do you stop and assess whether his aim is true? And if you’re a black cop, is your shooting and killing him because of “systemic racism” or the First Rule of Policing?

Mensah remains suspended and an outside investigator, former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, recommended he be fired.

Allowing Mensah to continue as a fully empowered police officer, with the authorization to potentially use deadly force for a fourth time, “creates an extraordinary, unwarranted and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa,” Steven Biskupic wrote in his report.

Mensah obviously isn’t afraid to pull a trigger, though the number of times he used deadly force doesn’t address whether it was justified in the past. If he had three good shoots before, they don’t make one dubious shoot any worse. Then again, Biskupic also noted that Mensah wasn’t exactly  the most credible cop on the force either.

Biskupic also found Mensah had made “inconsistent and misleading” public statements about the shootings, which could compromise his ability to testify in court, and violated a policy banning officers from discussing ongoing investigations of police shootings.

What happens from here is up to the chief and, thereafter, an arbitrator should the union demand it the circuit court. But what did not happen is that no charges  were filed by the grand jury returned an indictment District Attorney Chisholm against Mensah for killing Alvin Cole. Whether that was a good or bad decision depends on the facts, and given the Reasonably Scared Cop Rule, the likelihood is strong that Mensah’s shoot may have been wrong but not criminal.

But that didn’t stop the outrage.

Why shut down an interstate because a cop didn’t get indicted? What did the thousands of drivers do to the protesters?

Not even big national chain stores, which would still be wrong but at least not the worst possible victim of the rioters, but small stores and people who live in modest apartments.

Did this homeowner have anything to do with Mensah? With Cole? With anything? But rioters don’t think. They feel, and they feel outrage, and he’s probably lucky no one beat him for questioning why they would take their outrage out on him. Why not go loot a gas station with a convenience store, since rioting works up an appetite?

Much as people have expressed, in deeply passionate tones the depth of the outrage about the killing of black people by police, although it’s usually focused on the ones who aren’t firing guns, these expressions of fury can’t explain why rioting and looting is an acceptable reaction. Even worse, why harm and destroy stores and homes of people who have nothing to do with the cause of your grievances.

The efforts to argue that one can’t compare the killing of a black youth to a motorcycle driving across one’s lawn are nonsensical. Of course they’re not comparable, but there is also no connection whatsoever to the killing and the random guy’s lawn.

Nor is it fair to compare a cop shooting a young black man with a guy getting punched, but the point is that people do bad things sometimes, and sometimes the person who does a bad thing is black. Not only do the facts of what happened matter, but so too does the rationality of the reaction matter. Generalized outrage and the opportunity to grab a Slim Jim is not the answer to excessive police force.

27 thoughts on “Short Take: Outrage, Misdirected

  1. Hunting Guy

    Hillary took the district in 2016.

    I wonder how many of those residents will now vote for Trump.

    President Donald Trump.

    “We need law and order.”

    1. SHG Post author

      In most respects, it’s apples and Chevys. The president has little to do with their local cops. On the other hand, are these rioters going to be the new members of Congress?

      1. Hunting Guy

        True in some respects. But the local politicians are doing catch and release and holding the police back. Elites are bailing the rioters out. The people that live in these houses and run these businesses are not stupid. If Trump offers them a life preserver, and the locals authorities don’t, it’s human nature to grab what’s available.

        You are right that it’s apples and Chevys, but you are looking at it from an educated, east coast viewpoint and with a legalistic slant which is different from their justice outlook.

      2. Drew Conlin

        “…In most respects, it’s apples and Chevys. The president has little to do with their local cops. On the other hand, are these rioters going to be the new members of Congress?”..

        …or are they going to be judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers…? Yikes!!

    2. Dan J

      I wondered why traffic was so backed up yesterday, fortunately it cleared before I left work.

      I am sure the ads are not all local, but Trump has been hitting the law and order thing hard. Footage of crowds burning and looting businesses is one thing, but going after random houses in the suburbs couldn’t be a better present to Trump. No wonder shotguns are sold out just about everywhere in the state.

  2. B. McLeod

    The rioting, destruction and looting does not seem to be having any effect so far as reducing fatal use of force by police. It is baffling, therefore, that more rioting, destruction and looting is seen by anybody as a solution to the problem.

  3. Jed Dolnick

    For clarification, the decision not to charge Mensah with a crime was made by District Attorney Chisholm. Wisconsin doesn’t use grand juries.

    Also, an arbitrator doesn’t hear an appeal of a Police Commission case; it goes to the circuit court.

    In my opinion, the city will have a difficult and expensive time trying to win a termination case. The three shootings were officially determined to be justified. The rules violations alleged by Biskupic were weak and wouldn’t justify termination under the just cause elements. However, the police chief has the management right to reassign Mensah to administrative duties. As long as his compensation and pension aren’t impacted, he has nothing to grieve.

    1. SHG Post author

      Thanks for the clarifications. It’s always useful to have someone with local knowledge correct my “outsider” errors. Now corrected.

  4. Stephen L. King

    Sir: No one in any of the recent police shooting cases has argued from the perspective of the physiological and psychological changes that happen to a person while undergoing a deadly force encounter. The books “On Combat” and “On Killing” are very illuminating in this context and, to my simple mind, went a long way to explaining what happens.

        1. SHG Post author

          It’s not that your point didn’t have merit, but that there have been, and will be in the future, posts where it’s the point at issue.

  5. Pedantic Grammar Police

    The Cole shooting was his third. That means that there were two previous “shoots” not three.

  6. Pedantic Grammar Police

    “The fatal shooting was Mensah’s third in the past five years; the two previous shootings were ruled justified as well. ”

    “Allowing Mensah to continue as a fully empowered police officer, with the authorization to potentially use deadly force for a fourth time, “creates an extraordinary, unwarranted and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa,” Steven Biskupic wrote in his report.”

    Biskupic is referring to a hypothetical fourth time that has not occurred yet.

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