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The whole election process has been fascinating to me.
Here’s a little secret that I have….
I don’t vote.
I guess it’s not a secret, since all my friends and family and now you know it.
I have never voted in my life, and although I’m ostracized by family and friends for my apathy towards the whole process, I don’t feel like I need to apologize for it.
My Facebook feed is almost perfectly symmetrical with Democrats on one side, and Republicans on the other. I mean it’s nearly an exact 50/50 split.
I knew who was voting for Hillary because that’s all my Democrat friends talked about for months. While my right leaning friends were quiet, the left gloated about how wonderful it will be to vote for a woman president, in spite of her flaws. They ignored her improprieties, even though most were committed in her role as a politician, and pointed out all of Trump’s faults, of which there are many.
My Democrat friends railed on Trump and called his supporters morons, ignoramuses, buffoons and of course, “Deplorables.” These are the people who are supposed to be more socially accepting of others, mind you.
The Deplorables showed up to the polls to take their country back, whatever that means.
Deplorables alone though weren’t going to win the day for Trump. Just like President Obama needed support from many white voters, which he got, Trump needed support from people who don’t live in trailer parks and fly Confederate flags. He needed support from otherwise good people, and he got it.
The fact is that the other half, my other friends, are certainly not “deplorables” or ignoramuses or bigots.
To many Democrats, a vote for Trump was a vote for bigotry and misogyny and all the other isms that get tossed around.
The truth is that these Trump voting friends of mine are farmers and war veterans and police officers and firefighters and other people who have done more than their fair share to make this country great.
Donald Trump is a buffoon, yes. Listening to him talk will be painful for the next four years, yes. But to assume he was voted in exclusively by backwoods KKK members is misguided. Who do you think pushed Obama into office? If you ask the backwoods KKK members, they will tell you that it was inner city criminals who did so, and that’s just not true either. Many middle of the road people voted for both men.
People have ideals that they hold dear, and don’t have much say in who will represent those ideals in Washington. They have to pick what they can.
There are people who want the best person for the job in office, so they vote based on things other than simply whether or not there’s a (D) or (R) next to the candidate’s name. The working class people of America decide who wins.
President Obama did about as good a job as he could have done for eight years. Many Christian whites thought he was the anti-Christ, and that he was going to ruin their lives. In spite of this, he accomplished much of what he set out to do, in the face of much stone-walling.
He most certainly did nothing of the sort with respect to ruining anybody’s lives. I would love to have a beer with Obama one day. He strikes me as an entertaining person to be around.
But, he was a politician, and people are simply tired of politicians. To believe that four more years of Hillary would be anything but four more years of the status quo was not an unreasonable belief.
Many people who support law and order and have strong feelings about what Republicans hold dear voted for a Republican because it was important to them, in spite of the candidate.
People of all races and economic statuses have grown tired of violence and rioting and supporting criminals over law enforcement. Intelligent people didn’t have to like their choice to understand that the next couple of Supreme Court justices could drastically change immigration, law enforcement, abortion and other areas of society that many people are passionate about.
I was as shocked as anybody to see Trump win, but now that he has, we’re stuck with it for four years. He hasn’t made a single bad decision as President yet, so give the man a chance. Maybe he’ll surround himself with good people and let them get done what needs to get done to move this country in a better direction.
Or, maybe he’ll set us back five decades socially too, I don’t know.
To the “winners,” I pray you don’t gloat and become all high and mighty because your candidate won. On the “losing” side, there is legitimate concern among people you know and may care about as to their rights.
Gay men and women are legitimately nervous…no, scared shitless, that their ability to marry and raise kids could be curtailed or outright outlawed. They may not be able to make simple purchases because of their sexual orientation.
THAT IS A LEGITIMATE WORRY!
Women who may become pregnant are legitimately worried that they may be forced to carry an unwanted child to term.
THAT IS A LEGITIMATE WORRY!
Technically illegal immigrants who have been in this country for years, even decades, are scared that they will be deported to a land they are unfamiliar with, even though they are working and making a living here in the United States. Many have kids who were born here and are people who appreciate this country more than “real” U.S. citizens.
THAT IS A LEGITIMATE WORRY!
Trump purports to support law enforcement. Obviously, that is something I can get behind.
I am law enforcement, and I look forward to seeing what he intends to do to help my profession.
At the same time, I support the Constitution and I am a compassionate human being.
I’m as tired as many people of the violence and rioting and war on police that is happening in our country. We need to do better to address these issues, but we cannot ignore what progress has been made in the past few years since Ferguson.
The concerns of minorities are real, and so are the concerns of law enforcement. There has to be an understanding that criminal conduct won’t be tolerated, with the caveat being that everyone will be dealt with equally, with no regard for a suspect’s race or gender or wealth.
Good luck with all that.
I’m told that since I didn’t vote, I don’t get to complain, which is fine. I have kids and a miniscule bank account and numerous chores around the house to get done, so I don’t need politics to find something to complain about.
I don’t want to complain, and I don’t want to read the complaints of other people.
I have unfriended zero people as a result of this election, and I don’t plan to start now. My hope is that both sides can see past their differences and understand that you are the same in a lot of respects too.
When both sides aren’t posting political opinions, they are posting other clues about who they are. On both sides, I notice that my friends, Democrats and Republicans alike, are parents and sons and daughters and employees and are genuinely good people. You both post pictures of your kids playing sports and going to the zoo and doing fun things. Both sides worry about money and wonder why gas prices fluctuate so much. You both root for your respective professional sports teams and bash the rivals. You all have cats and dogs and so many other similarities that it’s really asinine to focus on your differences all the time.
Don’t let politics ruin friendships. Friends who do that are as bad as parents who abandon their kids because they are gay. Hate and racism and sexism aren’t politics though. If this election for you was about making America “white” again, then shame on you, because that’s sick. Truly great will include all races. Contrarily, don’t confuse a person’s pro-Trump stance as being anti black or gay or women. While Trump himself may be all these things, there are many issues that people support, and always have. That he was their only choice in standing up for those beliefs isn’t their fault.
Let’s focus on our similarities for a change, and maybe, if we’re lucky, we can indeed make America great for EVERYBODY again.
My coworker walked into my office and I told him, only half jokingly, that if one more person pissed me off this morning, I was probably going to snap.
Some of the recruits had been pushing my buttons with their repeated mistakes and lack of attention to detail.
I was in a foul mood.
“You’re not going to like this then,” he continued.
“The cop shot this morning died.”
Just like it has for eighteen years now, those words hit me like an unexpected punch in the gut.
I knew about the shooting, but assumed or hoped that he would be okay.
Surely he’d recover with time, just like many other people who get shot do.
Another police officer is dead.
A young man with a lot of life ahead of him is dead.
A young father is dead.
A young wife is a widow. She may spend days or weeks or months hoping it’s not true and that her young husband will be home soon.
A two year old will never toddle into his biological dad’s arms again or ever draw pictures of a police man and hand it to his daddy with pride.
“The cop shot this morning died.”
How many times can one hear those or similar words and still go on working as a police officer in spite of it?
Shortly after I heard the news, my own wife texted an emoji to my phone. It was the one where the face is blowing a heart shaped kiss.
Without words, I knew she knew, and that she was thinking about me. She was concerned for me and for her own kids.
We don’t have time for cops to be killed right now. We already have to rearrange our lives to accommodate the circus that is the second presidential debate in St. Louis, and now we have to prepare to bury a fellow officer.
Either event alone is difficult; their simultaneous occurrence is a mess.
Still, we will do it.
We will take care of these events because we must. Somebody has to.
County officers will work the debate alongside us City officers.
We will stand tall with black mourning bands on our badges, thinking about our lost comrade and our own determination to continue on with this fucking job. We will do it right in the face of people who hate Trump or Hillary or cops or just everything in general and who will take that hate out on the front line officers.
We’re easy targets.
We’re easy scapegoats for a system that many people don’t trust or like or respect anymore.
Hate that your taxes are too high?
Hate email scandals?
Hate billionaires who are going to build walls and deport immigrants?
Take it out on the police officers.
You’ll never get close enough to the people who truly cause your life misery, but we’re right here.
Spit in our faces.
Call our black officers vulgar, disgusting names.
Tell female officers you want to meet them off-duty and rape them.
Tell us you want us dead or that you’ll find us and do harm to our families.
This is what officers have to listen to during protests. Every time.
Pretend that we don’t hate email scandals or corrupt billionaires or have to pay taxes or face the same problems as every other schmuck does once we get home from work.
Pretend we’re not unique individuals who share your concerns and hopes for a better future.
We’ll be there for you anyway.
We’ll have our days off cancelled and our shifts lengthened so that everybody can enjoy their debate related shenanigans.
We do it so you can enjoy parades and fairs and professional sports events too.
It’s tiring sometimes, but we do it.
We do it even when we’re deflated by news that a local cop has died.
That somebody who was doing what you do every day has been murdered.
The silver lining is that I’m no longer angry and on the cusp of snapping.
I’m alive and my recruits are alive.
We’ll use this as a learning tool. Mistakes and lack of attention to detail when you’re out of the Academy can get you killed.
They need to know that.
They need to get that through their skulls.
My kids can still draw me pictures of police officers and hand them to me with pride.
My wife can still expect me to come home after a long shift.
My dogs will bark at me when I do come home, and I will be annoyed at them, but less so.
I’m thankful to have my health and my life.
My problems are irrelevant right now, because I wasn’t that cop who died today.
Hillary Clinton was asked during the presidential debate to comment on this country’s racial divide, and almost without hesitation, she intertwined racial disharmony with the current state of law enforcement here in the United States.
That would be all well and good had she made some effort to point the finger at other agencies and industries as well.
Again, while race is certainly an important consideration in police hiring and policy consideration, racism isn’t the fault of policing or police officers.
I don’t disagree that there are issues of trust between minority communities and police departments and of course, since I’ve written on it before, I don’t believe that it’s fair that law enforcement takes the brunt of the public’s beating for race issues that are well beyond our control or doing.
Racism is rampant in employment, housing, education and other areas that affect far more minorities who aren’t committing crimes with far more consistency and concern than racism in law enforcement does.
However, among the caterwauling at the debate was a bit about what’s commonly known in law enforcement circles as Stop and Frisk.
The policy is considered racist.
Trump endorsed the policy while and Clinton’s supporters decried it as being unconstitutional.
Depending on how it’s applied, it is most certainly not unconstitutional, or maybe it is.
The Constitution of the United States is a pretty amazing document. For its length and when it was written, it still holds up fairly well to the demands of modern day America. It’s not perfect, but it does the job for the most part.
Part of its imperfection lies within what also makes it so perfect, namely, the conflict between the branches of government.
The Legislative branch creates laws that are, ostensibly anyway, laws legislators believe their constituents (you and I) want to see passed on our behalves. Many of these laws are criminal laws.
The Executive branch, (police officers, ) is tasked with enforcing the laws, while the Judicial branch interprets them.
Laws that are over-broad or vague or that don’t pass Constitutional muster, are struck down by judges for these reasons and others.
There is an inherent conflict between the job of police officers of the Executive branch, who are tasked with bringing law breakers to justice, and members of the Judicial branch, who must interpret the Constitution and laws that affect the rights of citizens so as to set limits on how far police officers can go, procedurally speaking.
A limited version of a Stop and Frisk policy in New York City was struck down by a federal judge, but that is hardly binding on any police officer except for those in that particular district. If it was truly “unconstitutional” it would have disappeared a long time ago. We here in the rest of the country still use it, though maybe it’s time we gave it a different name.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, where I proudly work, has a series of what we call special orders to guide employee behavior. One of those special orders, number 8-02, is titled Stop and Frisk.
I’ve just read the order over, and I have no doubt that everything it contains and allows is good law.
The Stop and Frisk arose from a famous Supreme Court case called Terry v. Ohio. Without delving into a civics dissertation, the Terry case involved a police officer stopping men he suspected might be up to no good.
He thought they MIGHT be committing or about to commit a crime.
He wasn’t 100% sure though.
In other words, he didn’t have probable cause to arrest them, but he detained and searched them to figure out what they were up to.
The Supreme Court of the United States gave this stop and subsequent frisk the thumbs up, and it’s still good law today. It’s obviously a critical tool for law enforcement.
Why is there confusion and confrontation then?
I teach police recruits about Terry Stops, or what are sometimes interchangeably called a Stop and Frisk.
We are fortunate in our urban police department to have recruits from all walks of life in nearly all of our recruit classes. Classes are made up of whites, blacks, gays, straights, men, women and so forth.
There is a lot of healthy disagreement in our discussions.
Part of what makes this diversity good is that many recruits have had the very sorts of encounters with police that I need to talk to them about.
It’s easy for me to try to explain how embarrassing it must be for a person to be stopped by a police officer in front of their family or friends or neighbors, and then even more so, if the officer puts his or her hands on them to search for weapons or contraband.
It’s humiliating, especially if you’re not committing any crime at the time.
My words don’t have the same effect though as a young black recruit who can relate to being stopped for basically no reason, or searched because he “looks like an armed person” that the police were looking for can.
Fairly consistently, much of the problem discussed with these sorts of stops is a lack of communication on the part of the officer.
I will ask a recruit, “Do you think it’s fair that you were stopped because you looked like an armed suspect that the police were looking for?”
The kid will usually say no, but when pressed with, “Well, what if you really DID look like a person who had just committed an armed robbery? Forgetting your race for a minute, do you think the police should be able to investigate you and maybe even search you, if they legitimately think you’re an armed robber?”
“Yes,” they invariably admit, and that is the crux of a stop and frisk.
Officer must be able to stop people we reasonably believe are committing or have just committed, crimes.
That does mean, however, that people who are not the suspects we’re looking for, will sometimes get stopped and questioned.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say a store calls 911 to report that a tall and very young looking, black male wearing a red sweatshirt and blue jeans has just robbed them at gunpoint. The dispatcher will broadcast that information city-wide over the police radio, and officers in the area will begin to look for a person matching that description.
Whether or not an officer can legitimately claim to have reasonable suspicion to stop somebody for this crime depends on several factors. If it’s 30 seconds after the crime occurred, it would be unreasonable for an officer ten miles away from the store to stop somebody matching that description because it’s impossible that he would have made it that far.
It would not be unreasonable, however, to stop a tall, young looking black male near the store, if he’s wearing a red sweatshirt and blue jeans to find out if he’s involved in the robbery. It may also be reasonable to stop that same person were he wearing a tee shirt and blue jeans too, because an experienced officer knows that robbery suspects will often shed their clothing to avoid detection.
If this is our suspect, it’s no big deal. We have the victim come look at him, and if he or she positively identifies the person and or he matches the surveillance video, then great, we have our man.
But, if the person is NOT the suspect, and has no clue that a store has been robbed, he will obviously be concerned about why he’s being stopped by the police.
Police officers don’t like to be questioned, and we need to get over that. If you’re a police officer and you stop this person and they ask you, “Why are you stopping me?” The correct answer isn’t, “None of your business” or “You’re on a need to know basis.” Or any of those other shitty responses.
Who needs to know more about why a police officer is stopping them than the person being stopped??
I think we lose sight sometimes of how much power we have, and how frightening the reality of going to jail is for many people, especially innocent people.
There are many ways to handle stopping a person who does indeed match a description, but who isn’t, unbeknownst to the officer, the actual suspect.
My experience has been that being rude and standoffish isn’t the best way.
When a person in this scenario pretty obviously believes he’s being stopped because of his race, I like to have the dispatcher repeat the description of the suspect over the radio so the person I’ve stopped can hear her say, “The suspect is a tall, young looking black male wearing a red sweat shirt and blue jeans. He was armed with a gun.”
An innocent person will generally understand and cooperate. Assuming our innocent man has an alibi and certainly if the victim says no, that’s not him, then he is cut loose with an apology and a thank you.
It’s pretty easy to be decent to people.
So what does the Stop and Frisk, or Terry Stop, allow and how does it sometimes go wrong?
Again, we are allowed to stop people and investigate when we believe that criminal activity is afoot.
If you match the description of a suspect, that may sometimes be enough, depending on how accurate the match is.
There are other factors, outside of a person matches a description, that officers can use when deciding to stop people as well. As long as an officer can articulate why he or she believes criminal activity is afoot, he or she can stop a person and that person is not free to leave right away.
A group of teens on a McDonald’s lot with book bags is hardly suspicious behavior at 3:30 PM on a school day. Those same kids with those same book bags on that lot at 2:20 AM while the restaurant is closed though, is another story. If the officer is aware that there have been recent business burglaries late at night, that would be yet another factor allowing him to stop and investigate these kids.
It’s all about the totality of the circumstances.
When I teach Stop and Frisk, I do tell the recruits that I hate that it’s called Stop and Frisk.
I hate it because the Frisk sounds as though it’s assumed, when in reality, it is not.
Many people assume that if they’re stopped by the police, they are subject to being searched.
That is not the case.
Not too long ago, I got a call to a house for some reason or another and parked my car on the street near the house. Just by chance, two teen boys (they were black, yes) were walking by as I got out of my cruiser. As I looked up and said, “What’s up, fellas?” both of them, without even thinking about it, veered to my police car to put their hands on the hood.
That’s conditioning, and it’s fucking sad.
A stop must be based on reasonable suspicion. We cannot detain a person absent at least reasonable suspicion. All officers know this. To search a person, an officer must also reasonably believe that the person is armed and a threat. In the robbery example above, that’s pretty obvious.
If, however, the crime was a shoplifting and not a robbery, then to search that person right away would have been improper.
There is a fine line between reasonable suspicion and racial profiling, and officers must err on the side of not detaining people when we’re not sure we have the latter.
To stop a person with no cause other than a hunch, is not good enough. To search a person without cause to believe they are armed and dangerous (prior to having probable cause that they have committed a crime), it not good enough.
Some minorities, the homeless, etc. get stopped monthly, if not weekly, by different officers who may think they’re doing good police work by stopping people, but who are in fact, widening the rift between the police and the communities who need us the most with each and every stop.
Stopping and frisking people is very much still a valid and important law enforcement tool, but it must be done correctly and used responsibly. It is humiliating to be searched by law enforcement in the middle of one’s neighborhood, especially if you’re not involved in a crime. We as officers should recognize that.
I don’t believe that NYC’s policy was to simply stop people and frisk them without more.
If that’s the case, then yes, that policy was terribly illegal.
Playing by the rules of the game set by the Judicial branch is an important key to building trust between police and the community.
Part of being able to do that is to first know what those rules are. I hope this post has helped in that regard.
I thought of the below described call today after seeing an online friend of mine, Tshaka, Tweet about his status as a “big black guy” and what that implies when he is confronted by law enforcement (not that he is a LEO frequent flyer at all) versus others in society acting the same way.
There are so many ways to dissect incidents such as the recent Tulsa shooting, and this one will be dissected too, but at the end of the day, we as police officers fail when we kill somebody, even when it’s justified.
I have so much more to say on that, but I need to kick it around first. In the meantime, during the below encounter, it never crossed my mind to point a gun at this kid, but what if I had been a smaller officer? What if I was a petite, female officer? Should it matter? It does, but should it?
The entire encounter lasted probably forty-five minutes. It took that long to calm him down and get him to help. Totally worth the wait to avoid unnecessary violence.
It was a fairly warm day, at least for the first week in April here in St. Louis.
I was working on this particular Saturday in 2015, patrolling the streets of North St. Louis, when I got a call for an OBS.
I don’t know if OBS has any significance outside of first-responder parlance, but in that realm, my work realm, it means a call for a person acting “crazy.”
They are my least favorite type of calls to respond to simply because they usually involve dealing with people who just aren’t in their right minds, usually because they’ve stopped taking medication.
I recall that this 911 caller was the subject’s dad, and he wanted to report that his twenty-two year old son was indeed off of his medication and acting erratically. The dad said he would meet police in a parking lot where his son was ranting and raving about nothing in particular.
I also remember the dispatcher relaying that the subject was trying to fight people, and that he weighed 350 pounds.
Yikes. I assumed that was information that the dad gave because he thought it might be important.
I cleared the call with the dispatcher and chuckled to myself as I envisioned an out of breath Fat Albert looking character trying to fight people in the parking lot of a strip mall very typical of those in impoverished areas.
This one has a liquor store, a Chinese takeout restaurant and an auto parts store, but none of them was even open yet. There was no crowd.
More importantly, there were certainly no 350 pound crazy people trying to fight anybody around either.
I waited patiently, knowing my good fortune wouldn’t last, when I noticed a white sedan heading through the lot in my direction. It was pretty clear that this person was driving with a purpose, and I sighed knowing that the driver wouldn’t have anything but bad news to share with me.
Sure enough, the man in the sedan was the person who had called 911 about his son’s behavior.
He told me that he’d given the wrong parking lot location, and that his son was actually across the street, at the barber shop.
I cringed at his words.
OBS calls are awful enough when there is nobody around to further agitate the person, but trying to deal with some of them in public, when a crowd is around, can be a nightmare and North Side barber shops on Saturday mornings are sure to have a crowd around.
I imagined the scene in my head before heading across the street, and I was close to on point, but not quite.
What I imagined to be a group of about ten or twelve people outside was closer to thirty or forty.
What I imagined to be an obese, Fat Albert look-alike was a stocky, muscular behemoth of a young man.
And I may have underestimated the level of his “crazy” as well.
I generally don’t touch my Taser, but I had it in my hand before I even stepped out of my car on this call.
The son in this case was well over six feet tall, and he was built like a brick shit house. I know that because he wasn’t wearing a shirt, even though it wasn’t really a day to be walking around shirtless.
Blood dripped from his face or mouth, it was hard to tell which, and his chest and stomach were blood stained as well.
He scowled at the sight of me and spit blood onto the hood of my police cruiser.
I looked at him disappointingly.
“That’s not very nice,” I said while motioning towards the spit on my car.
He spit on my car again, undeterred by my opinions on his social graces.
When he suddenly stepped towards me, I raised my Taser at him and told him that he’d better back off. I wasn’t threatening or angry or hostile in my tone at all.
I said it very matter of factly.
He did stop about ten feet away and raged on about his father when he noticed him standing nearby. He cursed at his dad as his dad tried to talk to him, and it became clear to me that his dad being there was a problem.
My assist had arrived at some point, and I was glad to see him. He was an officer I trusted not to make a shitty situation worse by acting like an asshole or agitating an already agitated mentally ill person.
Thank God for small victories sometimes.
I asked the dad to leave while we waited for EMS to arrive, and he did.
The son continued to rant and curse. Now that dad was gone, he was cursing white people generally, and the two white cops in front of him more specifically.
We were only eight months removed from the Michael Brown shooting at this point, and as I looked at the crowd behind him, I noticed that almost every single one of them was holding a cell phone to their face, hoping to catch some sort of police misconduct on video.
My partner and I let this man rant and rave and spit on my car, but every time he made a move towards us, he would stop when I told him to do so and began to raise my Taser. We were able to mostly keep the car between us and him while we waited for more help to arrive.
A couple of detectives stopped by and thankfully, one of them was black. He was able to have some dialogue with this guy that I wasn’t ever going to get simply because of my skin color and this guy’s current mental condition.
I’m okay with stepping back, if that’ll calm things down.
An old lady stepped out of the crowd and said that she knew the young man. She asked if she could speak to him.
The other detective, a white guy, said no, but it was my call and I thought it was a good idea.
I didn’t sense she was in any danger, so I allowed her to talk to the kid. She was able to talk a little sense into him, where nobody else could. While standing there listening to her tell this kid things like, “Hey, these white officers aren’t playing with you,” and “Do you know that these white officers are just looking for a reason to kill you” stung a little bit, her words were working to calm him, which mattered more than my feelings just then.
While the tension was still obviously in the air, EMS finally showed up.
Mercifully, as if Jesus was on my side that day, both of the EMS operators were black. They and the woman were able to coax the young man into the back of the ambulance to be taken to some hospital in order to get him back on the medicine he needs to function in society again.
A couple of years ago, I was buying some propane and other irrelevant items from a small business in a town just a few miles outside of St. Louis City.
As I fumbled for some change from my pant’s pocket, my police badge fell onto the counter.
Upon noticing the badge, the clerk, a white man in his fifties I’d guess, asked if I was a cop.
I admitted that I was and he asked me where I worked.
When I told him I worked in the City, he said, “I don’t know how you do it.”
“It’s a challenge sometimes,” I responded.
The very next words out of his mouth were, “How do you deal with all those niggers?”
He said that out loud in the place where he works, right to a stranger’s face.
I remember being taken aback and very pissed off that he assumed I was the sort of person who would enjoy continuing in wherever this conversation was heading. I’d never been in this place before that day.
I grabbed my change and my already paid for items and just left, without saying another word.
Like a coward.
As cantankerous as I can be, I really don’t much care for unnecessary confrontation. I get enough of that at work and tend to spend my free time with people who don’t push my buttons, my own kids aside.
This encounter was in the midst of the Ferguson riots, when tensions about race were high here in the St. Louis area. It was still well before Trump had emboldened certain people to just say whatever they want, other peoples’ feelings be damned.
In certain parts of the country, we’ve not come so far at all.
I suspect that this man’s view of black people comes from what he sees on a television set or reads in the news. It’s possible he’s never had a conversation with a human being who wasn’t nearly identical in most respects to himself.
There are still areas where people can live without having to associate with others who aren’t like them in nearly every single way.
It’s easy to hate people when you don’t know them. When you can con yourself into believing that people are not like you, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to their plight. When you can take it a step further and make yourself believe that certain people are not only unlike you, but are inferior to you, then you can not only turn a blind eye to the plight of others, but you can actively participate in being a major cause of that plight.
Slavery is a perfect example of that.
Slavery didn’t happen because people in power thought they were dealing with equals. They used blacks, Indians and even other whites, but they were white “criminals” or Irish or Catholic, or something that made them unlike and inferior to the powerful land owners of the time.
I’ve not physically been back in that store since, but mentally, I’ve been there many times again and made some sort of stand to put this guy in his place. I’ve kicked myself for not doing something to at least initiate debate in there a few dozen times. To even say something as simple and lame as, “That’s really not nice,” would have been better than just leaving without saying anything at all, which I did.
He’s not even the first guy to ever approach me and say something that I’ve found so ridiculous and offensive. When I was a bagger at a grocery store, my beloved St. Louis Cardinals baseball team was a team built perfectly for playing on Astroturf fields.
They were skilled and they were fast. Many of the best players were black.
Old men would make small talk with me as I bagged their cheese and oatmeal, mostly about baseball, and how the problem with the Cardinals was that they had too many…*old man looks around* “black players” on the team.
I remember thinking, uh, Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee are my favorite players, sir.
More recently, a man approached me in the parking lot of a gas station as I was getting into my patrol car to tell me out of the blue that, “there are a lot of black firefighters in this city.” He went out of his way to blurt this out to me for reasons that are still a mystery.
“Uh, I’m a police officer sir,” I said as I got into my car and left.
Always avoiding that unnecessary confrontation.
I do appreciate people who boldly stand up for what they believe in, even if it’s something I don’t agree with. They don’t mind, and sometimes they actually enjoy the confrontation.
Some might say by not standing up to these people that I’m part of the problem, but I don’t feel as though I owe anybody an apology for how I’m living my life.
The clerk in the store who insisted that he didn’t know how I did it (my job) wasn’t the first by far.
Eighteen years ago today, I sat in a chair as a brand new police recruit for the first time ever.
Back then, I’d left a job at Anheuser-Busch to try policing. My dad had done it for a few years here in the city, and it was something I just needed to get out of my system.
I got razzed by instructors who were appalled that somebody would leave Anheuser-Busch to work for the police department.
“Who does that?” They asked.
Yesterday I caught myself, now an instructor, razzing a new recruit who left Coca-Cola to become a police officer.
“Who does that?” I asked.
Circle of life, I guess.
Well I did that, and I’ve been asked dozens of times over the years since, “How do you do it?”
I’m sure all officers get asked that question from time to time.
It’s hard to describe, really.
How do you explain to somebody the joy of catching small kids looking at your badge and all the knick knacks on your gun belt and telling their mommy or daddy excitedly, “look, a police man” after you catch eyes and exchange a smile or a wave?
How do you describe the peace of buying a homeless man lunch and taking five minutes from your day to be the only person he may talk to all week?
How do I put into words the rush of participating in community meetings to try finding solutions to real life problems along with everyday people living in fear in those communities? It’s difficult to explain the high that comes with catching the bad guy or having your lunch bought by a total stranger or to have people approach you nearly every day and put out their hand to shake it while saying, “Thank you for your service,” or “Thanks for what you do.”
Or even now, I can’t really describe the joy I get from teaching tomorrow’s police officers what I’ve learned over these past eighteen years. What I know is theirs. My experiences are not mine to hoard. I will share with them all I know and all I’ve learned from being a police officer myself for eighteen years now, so they can duplicate my successes and hopefully, avoid my same failures.
I have the advantage of teaching them from that officer point of view as well as from the point of view of an attorney. I like to pretend I’m unique in that respect. Many attorneys teach officers, but not all of them have eighteen years of police work to add to their lesson plans.
Today I teach, but tomorrow, I may be in a knock down drag out fight with somebody on the streets again.
Maybe it’ll be with a man who is on drugs and beats his wife and kids and dog, and maybe somebody will see the fight and say, “I don’t know how you do it, officer.”
Maybe I’ll dust myself off and make eye contact with the crying wife and kid as they’re hugging on the porch, trying to figure out what they’ll do next for food or money or shelter.
Maybe I won’t be able to describe to you why I do what I do, but maybe you’ll see what I’m looking at and turn to notice those people on their porch too, and it’ll tug at your heart strings just a little bit. Maybe then you’ll know why I do what I do, which may not be the same as how, but is so much more important anyway.
This past Friday I was working patrol in the city when I heard an aid call come out.
An aid call is short for an officer in need of aid call, and it is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a call for help on behalf of an officer. Sometimes the officer presses an emergency button on his radio or in his car, other times, he orally calls for help directly over the radio, and sometimes, the dispatcher will make the important decision to initiate an aid call based on what she’s understanding to be happening from her end of the 911 center. This oftentimes happens when the officer keys up and there’s a lot of commotion in the background, and/or an officer isn’t responding when the dispatcher calls him or her.
In this regard, as well as others, a good dispatcher is worth his or her weight in gold.
When I was a young police officer, an aid call meant everyone in that officer’s district, or in the vicinity, dropped what they were doing and began racing towards the officer thought to be in need of aid. Shame on you, if you were caught by a veteran officer not hustling to your car, no matter how far away you might be within the district, or what you might be in the middle of doing.
I have literally left 911 callers on their porches with an, “I’ll be back; there’s an emergency” in the middle of them trying to tell me why they called 911, while running off to assist on an aid call.
It may sound rude or unprofessional, but the life of another officer is more important than most of the sorts of calls officers are responding to everyday.
It’s a judgment call, but it’s also not a judgment call. As a general rule, unless leaving a person would put them in jeopardy, there is no excuse not to respond, but I notice more and more each day that many officers, particularly new ones, just don’t get that.
I remember my first legitimate aid call like it was yesterday.
A young lady called to complain that her uncle had assaulted her. She didn’t look all that beat up, but it wasn’t my call. I was just the assisting officer.
It was towards the end of the 3PM – 11PM shift, and since the uncle had left, I figured the primary officer would just write a report and put the uncle out wanted, so we could talk to him later.
I was mistaken.
The primary officer wanted to try to arrest the uncle that night, so we ventured over to where the niece said he lived.
It was about time to make relief, and since I was young and childless, I had important plans like going to grab some beers or playing NHL 99 on my PlayStation at home, or maybe both at the same time. But, I was fairly new and it was the other officer’s call, so if she wanted to go try to arrest this man, then who was I to say I thought it was a stupid idea?
We knocked on the door and the uncle opened it. He stood in the doorway wearing the same clothes and looking exactly as the victim had described him.
Thoughts of fake winning the Stanley Cup with my Brett Hull led Blues faded away as I heard the other officer explain to this man that he was going to be arrested for assault. She cut right through the bullshit, not even giving him the chance to tell his side of the story.
People rarely want to hear that they are being arrested, and this man was no different, so with a vulgar, “Fuck that shit!” and a two handed shove of the other officer, our new friend was now running towards the back of his house with me giving chase.
I remember other people in the house sitting on a couch and in chairs in the kitchen as we ran past them. Their faces were not what you’d expect them to be when you think of what a person might be thinking as a loved one or friend is being pursued by police through his own house right in front of them. Their faces showed less surprise and more “what the hell is going on THIS time?” I’m sure in families where uncles assault nieces, having the police around isn’t that unusual.
Anyway, the uncle made it to the back door and I dove to tackle him as I reached the threshold of the doorway shortly after he did. In my imagination, the tackle was glorious to behold. I laid out parallel to the ground and flew gracefully off the deck and over the stairs to the backyard and took him down at the one yard line, like an MVP level linebacker, so to speak.
The reality was maybe not as pretty, but it’s my memory, so let’s digress.
Now the struggle was on.
I wouldn’t call it a fight so much, because the uncle wasn’t trying to assault me, he was just trying to escape me. Still, trying to handcuff a person who is motivated to not go to jail is no easy task, regardless of the strength of either participant. Think trying corral a greased pig, and you get the gist.
I got a handcuff on one hand, and at some point, felt the weight of the other officer, the one whose brilliant idea it was to arrest this man instead of going home to play video games, land right on top of us. I have no idea why the hell she jumped on top of us, but she knocked the wind out of me when she landed, so I decided I’d had enough tussling and pepper maced the shit out of everything around me, suspect, other officer and all.
Tunnel vision is a real thing, so I didn’t realize that while this clusterfuck was going on, there was a German Shepard the size of a llama chained to a fence and snarling at my head from less than five inches away. When I got my wits about me, the sight of those teeth and sound of that barking were a sobering reminder of just how much of our lives are often inches away from being altered.
I’m no dog whisperer, but I have no doubt that this dog was barking that he wanted to rip my face off and use my leg as a chew toy. Thankfully, his chain was strong.
During the struggle, I remember very well the sound of the sirens in the distance, as officers responding to help us got closer and closer. I don’t know if the other officer called for help, or the dispatcher did it herself, but it was the right call either way.
It’s hard to describe the comfort the sound of those sirens getting closer brings when you are the officer needing aid. It’s also a prideful moment for me, when I’m a responding officer, to see so many other officers arriving at the same time to help a comrade in need.
That’s when we’re at our best, I think.
When we ride new recruits about running and pushing themselves beyond their perceived limits, part of that is because there will be a time when they are fighting and they will hear the sirens coming from a distance, and know that they just need to hang on a few minutes longer until the sirens are close, and then are finally there. Pushing through a run will allow them to push themselves a few more minutes to fight.
Those are exhausting minutes, but they can be the difference between life and death.
Anyway, our friend the uncle was allowed to wash his eyes out with water and then he apologized to me as he was put in the back of the transport van.
That happens more than one might think it would. Suspects apologize for their behavior a lot, once they realize they’ve been caught.
It’s nothing personal.
The job is so much easier when officers figure out that it’s nothing personal against them. It’s the uniform. You can’t really blame a person for trying to run away, especially when they’re not trying to hurt you in the process. Jail sucks.
I remember as well that night, that one of the police German Shepards that had responded to the aid call was going apeshit crazy in the front yard, and was barking his displeasure at not being able to rip somebody’s face off and use their leg as a chew toy either. He was sitting pretty with his handler when my lieutenant walked by right in front of the dog’s face.
The dog bit the lieutenant, who was also an ordained minister.
The dog didn’t care about either, so he bit him right on his hand, which sent the ordained minister lieutenant into a fit of cursing that started with a loud, “MUTHA FUCKA WHAT THE FUCK???!!” And spiraled into a pretty hilarious rant that included many increasingly vulgar references to his own Lord and Savior, which I’m sure he doesn’t say on Sundays, as well as how he’d like to kick the dog’s ass up and down the street.
He didn’t do that, of course, but he did have a nasty bite mark on his hand. It was nobody’s fault but his own, as we all know the dogs aren’t there to play around, and they don’t necessarily know or care who the good guys are. A hand is a hand to them when they’re wound up.
Anyway, the recent Friday aid call was related to a police shooting here in St. Louis. For the second time in a week, somebody shot at a police officer. Thankfully, the officer was not struck, and he was able to stop the threat using his own firearm.
Again, inches matter a lot sometimes in our lives. Inches worked in the officer’s favor on this night when the bullets going his way missed him, and against the suspect when those bullets hit their mark. Thank God the good guys train more than most bad guys. Some people can be shot eight times and live to tell about it, while others get hit once and die on the spot. It’s just a little bit of luck and a whole lot of when it’s your time, it’s your time. Sometimes it’s about inches.
That’s what I think anyway.
I was too far away to respond to this aid call and be of any use, so I parked my car on a grocery store parking lot and listened to the radio with pride as other officers arrived and did what sounded like a great job of securing witnesses as well as the crime scene.
Police shooting scenes are a mess, for obvious reasons, and have to be investigated perfectly from start to end so that we can tell the most thorough story of what happened via evidence.
The officer involved in this shooting is a man I consider a friend, and I trust that he did the right thing. He was also training a young lady who graduated just a few months ago from our Academy. She’s a brand new officer.
She is a good person with a big heart, but violent offenders don’t care about the heart of the person wearing that blue uniform. That lesson is often learned quickly in North St. Louis City.
I waited in the parking lot to see what sort of fallout there might be from the shooting.
The dispatcher had unnecessarily made it clear that it was a police shooting, so it was on social media in a hurry.
Would groups gather quickly to protest?
Would there be riots?
Would I have to make my way up there to help out?
Would I have to work overtime?
It was a waiting game to see where my next call would be, so I flipped through my phone for a bit to look at the many posts and Tweets about the outrage du jour.
On this particular Friday, one of those outrages was Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem, because he feels the flag symbolizes a country that “oppresses people of color.”
When asked what needs to change in this country vis a vis oppression, he made some myopic comment about police officers getting paid leave to murder people in the streets.
That was the only example of this oppression he could come up with during the interview I saw.
My issue with his blanket statement about police officers murdering people equating to the oppression of people of color is this, if we removed police brutality from society altogether, would people of color not be oppressed anymore?
The answer is no.
A few questionable killings by law enforcement officers during the course of the hundreds of thousands or maybe it’s millions of interactions between the police and the public each year isn’t why not enough blacks have jobs as CEO’s, or why the urban poor peoples’ school systems are for the most part pathetic in comparison to those in surrounding areas. It’s not the reason why many can’t get loans for houses or cars or the best internships or whatever.
It just isn’t.
Because of these things, such as the inability to get better education and jobs and loans, people of color are rightfully angry, but it’s not the street officers’ fault that oppression is still happening systemically.
Officers are seen as the soldiers of the oppressors, maybe. It’s like we’re doing their bidding.
I guess in some respects that’s true, but I’ve never felt like I was doing the bidding of some rich white men living on a hill somewhere. I’ve used my discretion and common sense wisely for nearly twenty years, and I think most other officers do so as well.
The truth is that that are very few GOOD jobs for less educated people, black or white, to find nowadays. Lower middle class and poor people used to be able to make a good living putting parts on cars on assembly lines or elsewhere. They would suffer the mind numbing work for three decades because they earned decent enough money to buy nicer things and send their kids to better schools. Their kids in turn would get better jobs than their parents had, and the cycle would hopefully continue until that family was firmly entrenched in middle or upper class America.
That’s not happening as much anymore as companies have replaced people with robots or found cheaper labor across the oceans. Shame on us for not getting companies to keep those jobs here somehow. Officer Don has nothing to do with Nike outsourcing jobs that people with no college degree could do here in the USA.
A place that does value diversity though, and that will hire people of color with limited or no college education, if they show good sense and potential, is nearly every single urban police department in the country.
Yes, being a police officer is still one of the ever dwindling ways that a lower middle class or even poor person can earn a decent salary so that he or she can offer their kids a better life and move on up the class ladder as mentioned.
It’s not an easy job though, and not everyone is cut out for it.
I work for a strong black woman. I love her and would go to bat for her anytime. Her boss is a black man, whom I also respect and enjoy working for. His boss is another black woman and so on. The Department isn’t perfect for sure. Cronyism and nepotism are disgustingly obvious, but we do hire a lot of minorities, probably more than any other place in the City, really.
When I hear somebody like Kaepernick calling officers murderers and oppressors, I’m just not seeing it.
Fixing the police to end oppression for certain people is like finding a better bandage to put on open sores caused by a terrible disease. The bleeding may stop at the sores, but it’s not addressing what’s killing the person.
Address what’s killing the person to give them a better quality of life, don’t just cover their obvious wounds.
Handcuffing current police officers and making it more difficult to find good people who want to do the job in the future just makes the situation worse for everybody. It misses the mark as to what the real problem is not by inches, but miles.
Miles that are making all the difference in the world in keeping this country from moving forward together.
By all accounts, Dallas Police Chief David Brown seems like a good man.
His life has been touched by turmoil and violence and he’s overcome all of that to become the Chief of Police of the Dallas Police Department.
I don’t know the man, and I don’t know what’s going on internally in the Dallas Police Department, so I have to stop short of saying he’s doing a great job there.
Maybe he is, but maybe he isn’t. I don’t know if the residents or officers he serves like him or not.
What I do know is that right now, he’s a media darling, and with the way things are right now nationally, we as law enforcement need somebody to be that for us. We need him to strike while his iron is hot so to speak.
As a black man, he can say things that white officers can only think.
That’s fact right there.
Many black people don’t want to hear what a white man has to say, and that’s understandable.
You think any white chief of police, even if he just had five officers on his force killed, could get away with talking about God’s tender mercy or saying that 70% of the African American community is being raised by single mothers without being dragged through the mud on social media?
What does it matter that single women are raising 70% of the African American community anyway?
I asked my recruits about the struggle of blacks in this country, and was surprised that I couldn’t get a lively debate going.
I just couldn’t.
The potential debate was squashed by the African Americans in the class. They bashed my attempt by pointing out that they, many of them, are from the very ghettos we’re talking about, and that they will someday serve.
Some were raised by single mothers and they are trying to make a difference. They’ve earned their place in the police academy. It’s where they want to be, and they don’t want to hear excuses from others. Wow.
I was impressed, but I shouldn’t be.
For the most part, in major urban cities, that’s who’s patrolling these black neighborhoods.
BLACK POLICE OFFICERS!
These are men and women who are from these cities.
They were pulled over by police when they were younger.
They were either treated well and drawn to police work, or maybe treated like crap and drawn to police work.
They have wives and husbands and sons and daughters. They worry about their family members just like any other black person does.
They’re also good police officers.
Now granted, the Dallas Chief hasn’t said anything new.
Remember Paul Harvey?
Police officers have always had to act as ministers and doctors and counselors, etc.
We’ve always shrugged it off as a part of the job, but should it be?
Isn’t Chief Brown right?
When you call the police for a person with mental problems, aren’t you asking for trouble, especially when there’s nowhere to take that person?
Many of the mental hospitals that used to serve these folks are closed.
When a person with mental problems sees a police uniform, they sometimes overreact and the whole ordeal turns into a clusterfuck that could have been avoided by leaving the police out of the picture altogether.
Why do we send the police when a family member calls and says that their loved one hasn’t taken their medicine and needs to go to the hospital?
Why? I’m not a psychologist, and if there’s no crime, why am I there?
It happens every single day.
It’s a recipe for disaster, and the results are often ugly.
When there are vicious dogs running loose in the city as Chief Brown says, and you call the police, what the fuck do you think is going to happen?
We do a great job with many strays. Most police officers love animals, but I don’t have a net and I’m not a dog whisperer. I have a taser and a pistol, but please, do expect me to peacefully wrangle your town’s pack of vicious dogs, John Q. Public.
Pfffft! That’s another issue altogether.
We are not drug counselors, we are members of the Executive branch of the government.
Remember history class?
The Executive branch of government enforces the laws. We don’t make these laws that everybody hates.
We put people into the criminal justice system. It should be people who make more money than cops like the judges and the probation officers and prosecutors who figure out the best course of action to take with people thereafter, but those folks are always let off the hook when the shit hits the fan.
It’s the police officer who bears the brunt of the public’s anger.
If probation is best, great. Do that.
If prison is best, great. Do that.
I don’t get paid any more if an arrestee goes to jail than I do if his charges are dropped, so I don’t give a fuck either way.
That isn’t a decision that police officers should have to make on the streets, when people are at their worst, but we’re forced to do so all the time.
I have to worry that if I arrest somebody I think shouldn’t go to prison for a minor drug infraction, the prosecutor will aggressively seek to put him or her there anyway. I also have to worry that if I don’t arrest somebody, they will victimize somebody else or hurt or maybe kill themselves because jail is maybe their best treatment option.
Those are hard choices to make on the streets, where there’s always another call waiting to be addressed, so time is of the essence.
The point isn’t that it’s an issue to deal with animal control, mental health, drug addiction, juvenile, family and other issues, PLUS criminal matters, the point is that at some point, it adds up.
It adds up mentally.
It becomes draining.
To become a police officer, one mustn’t be a rocket scientist. In fact, far from it.
You simply have to graduate high school or, barring that, to have achieved a GED.
Think about that.
We let people who struggled to get out of high school decide when they can use deadly force and then we lament when it goes horribly wrong.
Granted, intelligence isn’t a great gauge for one’s ability to discern when deadly force is a good idea or not, but there’s allegedly some difference in social consciousness between a high school drop out and a college graduate.
If society believes, rightly or wrongly, that race is the determining factor in whether or not the police are aggressively using deadly force, then maybe a higher standard for hiring and pay is in order. Theoretically, the public would get a more “enlightened” police officer, right?
Good luck with that though.
Who is drawn to law enforcement?
I was drawn to it because my dad and some of his pals did it.
That is the ONLY reason that I dared try this job, and when I signed up, even though eighteen years ago I told my then girlfriend and now wife, that I wanted to help people, I only wanted to do it for a couple of years.
I was too smart for policing.
My academy instructors told me as much.
“Why are you here,” they asked. “You left a job at Anheuser-Busch?”
Yes, I did. I tried the business world and hated it, so I went to the police academy.
Long story short, I fell in love with the stupid ass job. Lots of people do.
I meet new people every day, whether they be white or black or gay or Asian or whatever.
It’s been a great almost eighteen years.
Still, when this shit happens, I feel sad. When a police officer I have nothing to do with in some other part of the country does something that people judge to be wrong, I feel shame.
Maybe even when I shouldn’t, but I oftentimes do.
So many of the police citizen encounters that cause us such chaos can be avoided. They can be avoided by the bad guy complying, yes, but they can also be avoided by officers using better tactics, and that’s where we as the police need to look at ourselves and ask how we can fix things.
We are the ones who say we hold ourselves to a higher standard, so we need to do that by taking blame when we DO fuck up. It happens.
How can we train officers so that they’re not pulling alongside a large teenager they think may have robbed a store allowing him the ability to lean in and grab the officer?
How do we keep officers from pulling alongside a twelve year old boy alleged to have a firearm so that the only option in the officer’s mind upon seeing the gun from two feet away is to shoot?
How do we train officers so they don’t actively try to tackle an over 200 pound man they believe has a gun?
These aren’t murders in my mind, but they are terrible tactical mistakes that led to the deaths of people that law enforcement officers swore to protect. I know that every one of these officers regrets that they felt as though they had to pull the trigger of their gun.
I feel their pain and their hurt, I really do.
Maybe more of us need to be able to feel the pain and the hurt of the suspect’s family too.
Your police departments really are trying.
Deescalation is being taught across the country. Officers will hopefully see that standing down may be the better course of action. It’s not being a pussy, as some officers insist.
It’s being smart.
At the end of the day, an officer’s highest oath is to preserve life.
All life, even that of the bad guy, the shitbag, if you will.
If that means doing something crazy like pulling over a block from a suspect instead of two feet away from him, then so be it.
Killing is never the the best outcome, justified or not. Nobody wins when a police officer has to kill a citizen, even if it’s right or just or whatever.
If it can be avoided, it must be. I won’t argue this point with any of my fellow officers. If the option is either a person gets away or a crime is solved by taking a person’s life, the answer is always the person gets away. Always, unless there’s probable cause to believe escape means other lives are endangered, which is another story altogether.
We’re doing our best to train officers to avoid those situations. Maybe my opinion on this is bunk, especially with my coworkers.
Either way, maybe Chief David Brown is right.
Maybe we’re asking too much of our men and women in blue.
It is absolutely the worst kept secret that police officers are our own worst enemies.
For whatever the reasons are, we not only look a gift horse in the mouth, but we question it, frisk it, shake it down, and run it for warrants just in case.
Another black man is dead, and what I’ve been reading all day is that he was killed at the hands of “the police.” This time, it happened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It seems we can’t take two or three baby steps forward with rebuilding public trust before we take a giant, grown man step backwards.
All I’ve seen all day online line is that we, “the police,” are awful.
“The police” are racist.
“The police” are blood thirsty.
“The police” are violent.
“The police” are vengeful.
“The police” are acting as judge, jury and executioner on the streets of America.
“The police” killed this unarmed, well, I guess armed man, but not armed in the sense that he was a threat, no. He just had a firearm in his pocket while he sold music illegally at 12:45 in the morning.
Killed for selling music? That seems harsh.
Wasn’t there a call that this man had threatened another man with a gun? Whether that’s true or not, wasn’t that how the call came out? Is that what responding officers heard?
I’m not making apologies for the officers involved in this shooting. I’m not saying they’re right by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also not going to sit idly by and let people, most of whom have never in their lives answered a 12:45 AM radio call for a man with a gun, denigrate the reputation of “the police” without being taken to task for their overly broad assertions.
You see, as most of my regular readers know, I am who you are talking about.
I am “the police.”
On Wednesday morning at 12:45 AM Baton rouge time, however, I was sitting on my couch in Missouri, hundreds of miles away, drinking chocolate milk with my dog while deciding whether or not to write a blog post or just go to bed. I was completely oblivious to this shooting.
I’d just gotten home from working secondary at the Cardinal’s baseball game and must have missed the meeting where it was agreed that we, “the police,” were to be in Baton Rouge to kill another black man.
I clearly suck at being “the police,” because I’ve missed every other such meeting and have killed or criminally assaulted exactly zero other black guys in my nearly eighteen years of urban policing.
I was going to write a blog post about the bloody holiday weekend here in my fair city. Six or seven people were killed over the course of about twenty-four hours, none by “the police,” but now I see that there is more interest and outrage locally at this killing hundreds of miles away than there is about any of these or the dozens of other non-police related killings in St. Louis this year.
“The police” are working in trying times, for many reasons, some of which are admittedly our own fault.
Below are still shots from video provided by our police department to the media from just one of the killings in St. Louis on July 4th.
This is one of multiple suspects, in the middle of the day – a holiday mind you, who is literally hunting down his victims in the middle of an urban neighborhood with an assault rifle.
He looks very carefree and confident.
He looks to me to also be wearing a bullet resistant vest.
People don’t wear bullet resistent vests unless they’re expecting to be shot at. I have to wear one when I go to work, because I have to expect that I can be shot at whenever I’m on duty.
The man in this picture could have very easily been wearing the vest because he also expected to be shot during the course of his work. Perhaps he considered that he would have an encounter with the police during his attempt to murder his victims. Maybe that was even his hope.
Fortunately for him, and potentially any police officer who may have crossed his path, it didn’t happen, probably because many of the would be police officers in this neighborhood were working a 4th of July detail on their days off.
The funny thing is, or sad thing maybe, depending on your point of view, is that had he been stopped by police prior to murdering anybody, this man would have been in more trouble had he had bottle rockets in his possession, than he would have been for carrying around this firearm in plain view.
That’s not even a little bit of sarcasm, that’s the truth.
That’s Missouri and the current state of gun culture here for you.
Griping aside, I do get the frustration.
The little yellow markings above are just some of the many shell casings found at this singular murder scene. The lack of human decency for each other and the violence is completely out of control, and “the police” aren’t any more immune to it than the rest of the world.
I get that we want to have faith in our sworn protectors. We want to believe that “the police” aren’t unfairly targeting minorities, and we especially want to believe that “the police” aren’t killing minorities disproportionately, for reasons outside of anything but the defense of their lives, or the lives of others.
Are minorities killed disproportionately by police officers? I think the answer to that is pretty obviously yes.
Don’t confuse disproportionate with unfair necessarily though.
Do minorities commit more of the violent crime in areas where these confrontations occur? Again, based on where I work, I’d say that’s a yes too.
How do we fix that?
I teach Constitutional Law to new police recruits. I don’t teach them how to use deadly force, I try to teach them when they can use it. When are they okay to feel like they won’t be killed because they waited too long to protect themselves, or be sued because they used too much force prematurely? Those are difficult scenarios to teach in a classroom setting, but they’re even more difficult lessons to learn on the streets for the first time.
I’m trying to teach new police recruits that the use of deadly force is a last resort. I show them that the provision in our police manual regarding the value for human life is the first thing they’ll read after the table of contents. It’s there because it’s important for two reasons.
It’s important that they understand that they are vested with the right to proactively take another person’s life, if they have to. Not many other people possess that power. If they’re put into a situation where deadly force has to be used, they must be able to use it, or they or another person will be killed, or suffer serious bodily injury. It’s also front and center as a reminder that, with that power, comes great responsibility. We are tasked with protecting life, above all other things. That includes everybody’s life, even criminals.
We, “the police,” aren’t in the business of killing people for no reason.
I’ve taught my classes that it’s okay to walk away from certain scenes, if your uniform is only making it worse. Can you imagine that? Police officers leaving scenes they’re called to by the public?
There are times when it may be the better option, especially if it means a deadly force encounter is avoided.
It HAS to be THE LAST resort. It should be the exception that a person die at the hands of police, and the ugly truth of the matter is that people dying because of the police IS the exception. When the number of police and citizen encounters is taken into account, the number of deaths, particularly wrongful or criminal deaths, is negligible.
While we’d like to never see a person die via a police shooting, that’s a pipe dream at this point.
There are violent people out there waiting to hurt you and your loved ones, and, if they could, they’d hurt the police.
Police officers are targeted like never before. I don’t need stats to know that I’m less comfortable now than I’ve ever been at work.
Just pay attention in your daily to commute to other people who drive straight through red lights or speed or change lanes without signaling or flip other drivers’ off. There is a general air of disregard for other people and the law nowadays, especially laws people perceive as trivial. Along with that disregard comes greater disrespect and animosity towards those who are sworn to enforce those laws, namely,”the police.”
I’m glad there’s video that exists with more and more of these shootings nowadays, both police shootings and otherwise. It’s easy to read about people being shot everyday, especially when it happens mostly in areas you don’t visit much, but it’s much less easy to watch it happen live. My hope is that the violence put in front of all of our faces will cause us to collectively gasp at some point and say, “What the fuck? It’s gotten to be too much!”
Maybe then, when we’ve finally had our fair share of real life violence splashed in our faces from all over television and social media, we can start to seriously consider how to fix what’s wrong with society, especially with respect to violence.
Until then, things will move along as they always have. There will be more conflicts and police shootings and finger pointing and people making a whole lot of noise to distract everyone from the real truth, which is that these noise makers are doing nothing with their actions to cause a change for the better.
They’re just being windbags.
Blocking highways and looting and yelling and screaming has proven ineffective, as has placating people with firings and policies and training for police that don’t address the true underlying issues, issues that are the giant elephant in the room that people with all the power can afford to ignore, and will continue to ignore, because it’s not their lives that are affected.
My hope is us little people, both black and white, police and non-police, can come together to figure out what to do to fix what so clearly ails us.
The cure will be found in the grass roots of what has become a decaying society. When citizens understand that “the police” shouldn’t bear the brunt of the actions of some bad police officers just as “black people” shouldn’t bear the brunt of the actions of some black individuals.
If we’re all unable to see the forest for the trees, with respect to each other, nothing will ever change. Ever.