Big, black and crazy, but alive…

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.

Discuss.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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Why I police (sort of), if not how…

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.

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18 years minus 22 weeks of training ago at my own recruit graduation with my now wife…

 

 

 

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On police and social media. Where’s the line?

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, and just like any other corporation, small business or individual, police departments are still trying to figure out ways to use it in a productive way.

Some uses are obvious. Social media is a no-brainer when it comes to disseminating important information such as Amber alerts or suspect descriptions to community members who follow police department accounts online.

Neutral posts describing crimes generally are both informative and, let’s face it, entertaining to many readers. The public loves controversy and stories that spark emotion. No other entity has access to such a wide array of that sort of content as police departments.

Day after day, law enforcement officers respond to calls for people in all sorts of pain and distress and misery, much of which is captured on video or camera by police officers.

What responsibility do police departments have to protect the privacy of people caught at their worst on film?

This picture making its way around the internet right now is what’s driving me to ask this question today.

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Photo courtesy of East Liverpool, Ohio Police Department

The photograph above is currently eliciting a lot of talk and emotion online. It was presumably taken by a police officer who was on a call relative to a couple overdosing on drugs in a car as the four year old son of the mother looked on from the back seat.

I think the public has little issue with this photo being presented in court as evidence that yes, the couple was on drugs and in no condition to be out for a drive. Some people are calling these people “victims” and “addicts” and saying they need help, not punishment or embarrassment.

I disagree with that to the extent that they drove with a small boy in the car and then passed out with him in the back seat.

Today it worked out fine, but what if they had been driving on a hot day and passed out in a running car with the windows up? What if they had an accident? What if they’d have killed somebody else who had nothing to do with being in this car?

These two broke the law when they chose to ingest drugs.

They could have made better choices with respect to how and where they got high while they were still sober. Find a sitter or bring your shit home to use.

Still…

They are addicts and they really are sick.

Just look at them for God’s sake. They look like zombies.

As a long time police officer, I’ve seen the ravages of drug addiction. People do crazy things to get that “fix” that they so desperately crave. Suburbanites drive into the dark alleys of the worst city streets to meet with strangers to buy their pills. They steal from their own family members, and even trade their bodies for drugs or cash.

There’s no doubt it’s not as simple as just quitting.

Back to the picture though.

Skirting the issue of whether or not we think it’s right or wrong to charge these two criminally, the issue of the picture being posted on  a police department Facebook account is interesting.

Some people are mad, while others think it’s great.

News outlets love this sort of story. News outlets request pictures and other records from law enforcement all the time, which begs this question for me, – if a reporter had known this photo existed, and requested it from the police department, would the department have given it to them or would they have told the reporter that it was a closed record?

When a record in possession of the government is closed for whatever reason, then the public has no right of access to it. Some of you may be familiar with the Freedom of Information Act, or, as it’s known in Missouri, the Sunshine Laws.

Records are oftentimes closed, by law, for any number of reasons. It may be because they contain information that is very private (medical records) or because they may put a victim or other person in harm’s way or cause embarrassment or shame (sexual assault victims).

The problem with the photograph here, in the eyes of many, is an issue of trust.

To me, if it is a closed record, then the department better not be posting it online (I’m not saying it is a closed record). If they would not have given this photo to a journalist, then they had no business posting it themselves. That’s just my opinion.

Is the police department using the photo to say, “Look at all this crap we have to deal with, John Q. Public! You should have more sympathy for us.” Or, was it posted to truly show how awful drug abuse is and what a toll it’s taking on our communities?

I personally don’t see how this photograph does anything but make the police department seem, at the very least, insensitive.

We as police officers have become too involved in our jobs to be able to step aside and see that we must behave differently than the general public. We are the ones who insist that we are always on duty, and that we must be held to a higher standard, but when we’re called out for not doing so, we get unnecessarily butt hurt about it.

This job can’t be taken personally.

It just can’t.

Had an officer taken this picture and posted it on his personal Facebook page because he truly thinks that the drug problem is out of control, and that he thought the picture would help wake folks up, he still would have been reprimanded by his department. That the department brass, city and legal decision makers decided that it wasn’t illegal to post, doesn’t make it right for them to do what they’d never let an individual officer do.

Similarly, there are online squabbles made by officers who are talking about refusing to work 49er’s football games because of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem stance, as well as other anti-this or that protest we disagree with being made by officers. We hate protests. Not working the games because the team is dreadful is one thing, but to say that police officers are offended by the actions of a few people, so we’re going home, is ridiculous.

It’s harder to suck it up and do your job, so that is what we as officers must do, each and every time we are hurt or offended.

If you we go home, we lose automatically. If we stay and conduct ourselves professionally, we will never lose.

Whether that’s at a a riot, a football game, or a simple call for a drug overdose, we must be the better side.

We shouldn’t be making waves or taking sides when to do so puts us in a negative light.

Some of you may read this and think I’m being a hypocrite, and you may be right. This photo I used in a post two years ago now was certainly meant to tear at peoples’ emotions, and I knew it would because when I saw the shirt, it tore at mine.

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The difference between this photo and that of the couple in the car is that I took this at the hospital. It was taken with no victim or suspect or involved party around.

The police report says something about trying to keep the woman’s airway open, but the photo tells me that there is an officer’s arm holding her head up in what looks like a way to see her face more clearly. I hope that’s a wrong interpretation, because the officers should first and foremost be trying to protect that baby and even the adults, prior to any thoughts of taking photographs, evidentiary or otherwise.

Did part of me post my picture wanting people to say, “Look at all this crap we have to deal with, John Q. Public! You should have more sympathy for us!?”

Yes, of course I did. I was proud of my friend and the job we tried to do that night.

But, I also truly hoped that the sight of a six year old’s blood all over the shirt of a police officer would help foster discussion and anger and frustration at the senseless violence our city is dealing with.

In that way, social media is a quandary for law enforcement.

We need to use it to inform and educate the public, but when we’re seen as using it to embarrass others or garner sympathy for ourselves unfairly in hard times for us, we must expect to be called out on it.

Authentic moments caught on video are great, but when law enforcement starts to stage interactions between officers and minorities or kids or whoever, then I would tend to agree with any public bemoaning that we’re trying too hard and failing.

There’s a fine line between using social media as a shield and a sword, and we’re still trying to figure that out.

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A too long rambling on aid calls and oppression

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Police, Police Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Police. are we asking too much…?

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?

No way.

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.

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We do try and have a lot of success with many strays…

Drugs?

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.

Always!

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.

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.

Empathy.

We’re trying.

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.

Posted in Police, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Social media killed five cops…

Many, but not most, of my Facebook friends are police officers, both here in St. Louis and from around the world.

This morning, for obvious reasons, most of their posts are melancholy and many include words to the effect of, “I have so much to say, but…”

Fuck that but.

I have much to say as well, and I’m going to go ahead and say some of it now.

Yesterday was an exhausting day for me, mentally. While I didn’t get involved in any online squabbling, I saw that many of my friends were engaged in such battles.

It was tough to read many of the posts, even from people I consider friends, about how the police are out of control in their our treatment of “people of color.”

I went to bed knowing that there was a “situation” in Dallas last night and woke up to find out that it had morphed into a massacre.

What happened in Dallas is the culmination of 48 hours or so of frustration and bickering, much of which was fueled by online banter.

When a police officer is killed, it’s a sad day for all of law enforcement.

It’s a sad day for the city where the officer worked as well.

When we see that multiple officers were killed around the country on the same day, it’s a tragedy, but we sort of shrug our shoulders, remind ourselves that it’s a risk we’ve assumed when we took this job, and vow to be extra vigilant as we continue to go about our duties.

We accept that violence is a part of this job, and that violence goes both ways.

Even so, to see five officers hunted down and killed in cold blood, and six more injured in the same incident, by multiple people even, is insanity.

We didn’t sign up for that.

Five officers lost from even a large department like Dallas is devastating. Morale in the Dallas PD was already low, and this will only push many officers who were on the fence about leaving, right out that door.

This is where the line must be drawn.

When the peacemakers are not at peace, there will be no peace for anybody.

How can there be?

When law enforcement officers are not safe, you can bet that you, wherever you are, are not safe as well.

The rules of engagement have changed.

There are no more “rules” out on the streets. Even the worst mobsters and thugs years ago had some tact and chivalry. They played by some rules.

Today, it is not uncommon to see women and children killed, sometimes purposely, and sometimes simply as collateral damage, in a war that values no life but one’s own.

I have quickly become tired to no end of seeing posts from people about what they perceive to be unjustified recent police shootings.

I’ll say this up front. Your postings and rush to judgement is partly to blame for the unrest and the bloodshed in Dallas.

It sure is.

When soccer moms and fast food workers and accountants can discern from a thirty second video that the shooting in Baton Rouge was unjustified, then what do we need a justice system for anymore?

You had a verdict in mind when you saw the video one time. Maybe you watched it twice, but you figured it out, the police officers were in the wrong.

To say that you don’t have to have ever been a police officer to recognize police brutality or “murder”, as many of you called it, is inaccurate.

It is insulting, and quite frankly, it is bullshit.

Police officers go through many months of training before they earn a badge, and even then, none of them graduates the police academy and goes straight to being a homicide detective.

Investigative skills take time to learn and to hone. Not everything, even what we see through the eye of a video recorder, is what is seems.

The “simplest” things we do in the eyes of the public are not so simple as they may seem.

To many people, writing a traffic ticket is a job we could give to any idiot or chimpanzee willing to do it. Many have no clue that the fifteen or twenty yard walk from the door of a patrol car to the window of a traffic violator are some of the scariest steps officers take, day or night.

I’ve walked that walk countless times, and it’s no less harrowing today than it was seventeen years ago. To see the driver’s eye’s following you in the rear view mirror, and then in the side mirror can be chilling.

Is it really just a traffic violation? Does the driver have warrants? Has the driver just robbed a bank or killed his family? Did I kiss my wife and kids before work today?

All thoughts police officers have on many “simple” car stops.

Only the driver knows what’s going on in his head.

There’s more to writing a “simple” ticket than stopping a car and tossing somebody a piece of paper.

Unfortunately, police officers have to be hyper-vigilant now about their safety and assume the worst from everybody.

As much that goes through the mind of a cop on a traffic stop, there is even more involved in answering radio assignments at 12:45 AM for a person alleged to have a gun. Exactly zero of the people on my feed I see voicing their opinions, many of whom have found the Baton Rouge cops guilty already, have ever answered that call, but they’re experts in police brutality.

In many of these posts, the person is bemoaning what they see as officers acting as judge, jury and executioner, while they are, ironically, doing the exact same thing to their defendant police officers.

You judged and did the work of a jury, and left the execution to somebody else.

The execution was taken care of for all of you in Dallas.

These murders, and, unlike the two videos being shared online in LA and MN, I’m comfortable calling these murders already, were committed in no small part based on your outrage and adamance that the police had wrongfully killed two black men in cities that these Dallas Officers have nothing to do with.

It doesn’t matter though. “The police” had it coming.

If you kill any cop, you’ve killed the correct one.

It didn’t have to be Dallas, it could have been Portland or New York or even me, here in St. Louis. Any officer would have made a good enough sacrifice in spite of our individual body of work.

All of the original posts I read yesterday were anti-police with respect to these shootings because those of us who recognize that there are two sides to every story, were busy waiting for more facts to surface.

People hate to hear those words. “Wait for the facts to come out,” sets them off as though we have all the proof we need in videos that catch only a portion of an overall incident.

Funny enough, President Obama said, “We don’t know all the facts,” when discussing the five police officers murdered last night. He’s right though, we do need to wait for all the facts to surface before we can know what really happened and why.

I still don’t have an opinion on either of the shootings that have set off this violence. I know that both incidents could have been handled differently, but it’s not my place to say what’s the most right way for each officer to handle a call and it’s nobody’s place to call a cop a murderer until you hear the other side.

Fuck, maybe they are murderers, but that’s not for us to decide via social media.

We’ve lost it as a society when social media opinion trumps Constitutionally guaranteed traditions.

It aggravates me that I’m off work today. While it’s great that I get to spend it with my kids, today is the sort of day that is a perfect teaching opportunity for the new recruits, many of whom I’m sure, are wondering what they’re getting themselves into.

They’ll hear outrage from both sides and have to sift through the bullshit to decide if this career is right for them after all. I wish I could be there to initiate that discussion.

Hell, it won’t be just the recruits either.

There are probably thousands of officers across the country, many at the urging of their spouse or family, considering a change of jobs as we speak.

I’ve already been texted by my wife and mom to remind me that I’m loved and that I need to wear my vest to work. They know it can happen here today, just as easily as it did last night in Dallas.

Were  I not so close to a pension, I would be having the same thoughts, and that makes me sad.

The thought that I’ve given over 40% of my existence on earth to a job that has no doubt taken some years off of my life from stress and aggravation, for nothing, is upsetting.

Social media can be a great thing. Hell, it’s given me this platform to rant and rave and share stories with people from the comfort of my bed. At the same time though, it can be overwhelming and infuriating.

People are persuaded by what they read online, even if it’s from a soccer mom or fast food worker or accountant.

When enough of you call an uninvestigated killing a murder, then it will be a murder, instantly, in the eyes of many.

They don’t care about the justice system or the investigative process one bit.

Some of those many people will have rifles.

Your words in quantity were as good as any judge’s or jury’s, and since you ruled the officers were guilty, the executions they carried out on your behalf, in their minds at least, are justified.

Posted in Police, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments

See beyond “the police” for change…

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.

Damn.

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.

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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.

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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.

Deadly force.

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.

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Toyotas…

The internet is a wonderful place or thing or whatever it is, because there are millions of people always standing by, just waiting to share ideas and opinions, but the internet can also be an awful place or thing or whatever it is, because there are millions of people always standing by, just waiting to share ideas and opinions.

The Internet brings like minded people together, which can be a good thing.

Folks who think Ford makes the best pickup truck can easily find other people online who share this opinion. There is nothing wrong with loving one’s Ford truck, and being able to talk about it with others, mostly strangers even, who feel the same way, is great.

Ford truck owners might discuss where the best places to buy a Ford truck in their area is, or what sort of accessories are available to make their truck owning experience the best it can be.

All good things for sure.

Inevitably though, online talk can turn from why we love Ford trucks so much to why don’t other people love Ford trucks like we do? Why would somebody choose to drive a GMC or a Chevy truck when there are Ford trucks out there?

Interspersed with pr0- Ford truck comments will be memes or Tweets or posts about why Ford trucks are better than Chevy trucks. The memes or Tweets or posts are meant to be funny, of course, but posting such anti-Chevy content in a pro-Ford online forum is also a way for the poster to feel validated by the likes and shares that he or she will get on their anti-Chevy offering.

It’s a way for the original poster, and those who enjoy the post, to solidify their opinion that Ford trucks are the best, and anything that isn’t a Ford truck is inferior. Talk in the online group has shifted somewhat from how to get the most out of being a Ford truck owner to why we’re all right to be Ford truck owners compared to other truck owners.

This line of reinforcement isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, when talking trucks. Ford makes nice pickup trucks for sure, and not liking Chevy trucks doesn’t make one a bad person, assuming one isn’t judging the owner of the Chevy truck. The risk is that there might be a better truck out there for these Ford owners, but they’ll never hear of it now.

It’s also possible though, that the creator of the anti-Chevy meme doesn’t even own a Ford truck. Maybe he can’t afford one, but hopes to one day be a Ford truck owner. Maybe his ex-girlfriend drove a Chevy truck, or maybe he doesn’t even like Ford trucks himself, perhaps he’s a Nissan Truck guy. Nothing in the Internet rule book says that a Nissan truck guy can’t post his funny anti-Chevy memes to get a few laughs and stir the pot between the Ford and Chevy people.

Anti-Chevy memes will be countered by pro-Chevy truck owners with anti-Ford memes, and it will go back and forth between the two groups for all the world to see.

Chevy owners will post facts and stats about Chevy trucks to reinforce their stance, while Ford owners will do the same thing to put their beloved Fords in a better light. 

Both sides are so passionate about their love for their own trucks, that they’ll not listen to reason from the other side. It’s very rare that a pro-Ford guy will post pro-Chevy content in order to have a discussion with his pro-Ford buddies about the validity of the pro-Chevy information.

No way. Instead, both sides will limit their posts to either entirely favorable to their side content, or damning content about the other side.

“I heard that Chevy trucks are known to blow up in rear end collisions,” a Ford owner might post, not knowing whether or not this is true.

Ford owners will like and share the unresearched post thousands or even millions of times, until it doesn’t even matter whether there’s truth to the statement that Chevy trucks blow up in rear end collisions.

It’s out there and in the minds of millions of viewers, many of whom are potential future truck buyers.

Chevy owners will counter with memes and stats of their own, but their protestations will fall on deaf ears from the other side. Ford owners want only to hear good things about Ford, and nothing about other trucks, unless it’s negative information that makes Fords better by implication.

Meanwhile, between the two truck owning groups, are those in the middle of the argument.

The people in the middle can be swayed to one side or the other. Some who think that Chevy trucks could blow up in a rear end collision will side with Ford owners, while others, who at one time or another thought they wanted to be truck owners, will mentally shut themselves down anytime Chevy or Ford trucks are brought up in conversation because they’ve lost interest in truck ownership entirely.

All of the bickering is just too much for them at some point, so they’ll just continue to drive a sedan.

Those who are still interested in truck ownership though, and who are rational in spite of all the protestations from both sides, might be able to make use of all the rhetoric from both sides to make a more informed decision.

Perhaps a potential truck owner never considered that a truck could blow up if rear ended hard enough, but now has online information to at least use to research the veracity of that claim.

The rational middle ground crowd will sift through the piles of information on both sides and attempt to sort fact from fiction. 

Unlike pro-Ford or pro-Chevy people, the middle grounders will post information that is both positive and negative about both truck groups. In doing so, conversation can be had on their posts with people from both sides of the debate, as well as with people who still haven’t made up their minds. Some of those people who are on neither side of the debate, but who do enjoy pickup trucks, might share relevant information about other trucks, like Toyotas.

Toyota truck owners will then come out of the woodworks to share their reasons for loving the Toyota brand. While Ford and Chevy owners continue to battle back and  forth, rational middle grounders will now research other options, like Toyotas, to make a more informed decision.

While their research might lead them to buy a Toyota truck, it’s also possible that they’ll be persuaded by their research to go with a Ford truck. Maybe they will join an online Ford discussion group based on their purchase decision and bring some rational thought to the group now based on their research.

When these online talks aren’t about trucks, but are rather about rights or race or sex or bathrooms or kids or breast feeding or circumcision, etc., the middle grounders are trying to be heard over the yelling from both sides.

In my own online world, I have friends who are very much either Chevy or Ford owners, and will be until the bitter end.

I read posts from my friends about race and sex and guns and the end of civilization being near, and it makes me roll my eyes sometimes. 

I can admit that.

But it also makes me smarter.

Many of my online friends are thoughtful and bright, and can have an argument about something with the understanding that a disagreement over a particular topic doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. A person can be either pro or anti gun legislation and still be a Cardinal’s fan.

We can agree to disagree about gun legislation and agree as well that the Cardinals need help to win the wild card and that we both hate the Cubs.

I’ve never been gay or a young black man or an immigrant or a rich white guy, so I have to learn perspectives about these people, who all want my support, from these very people, before making a decision. 

That’s why the Internet can be so cool. I have friends of all these different types and I listen when each of them says something.

I will be swayed with facts and logic and my own sense of what is morally correct.

Shouting and anger and finger pointing won’t win my vote.

Also, talk to me about the side that you don’t support and why I shouldn’t support them. A person able to make the argument from both sides is a person I want to listen to. If you’re pro-gun rights, but can’t even understand the arguments being made by those who want to limit those rights, then you haven’t really done your homework.

Many of my police friends are completely against the Black Lives Matter movement and refuse to try to understand where the discontentment comes from. Learning where the anger is truly coming from will only help in our discussions moving forward, about how to deal with the issues, many of which are probably not even police related.

I want to hear what both sides have to say, but I want both sides to hear and understand what the others have to say about their opposite views.

I want more information to be a better citizen.

Talk to me about the Toyotas.

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Devil’s advocate for “20 minutes of action…”

The internet is awash in rage today, well, it seems to be awash in rage everyday, but the focus of that rage has shifted from Presidential candidates, unisex bathrooms and shitty zoo related parenting to a letter written by the father of convicted Stanford University rapist Brock Turner.

For those not familiar with this story, Brock Turner is the Stanford University swimmer who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman while she was passed out cold.

The attack happened outside a college party, behind a dumpster, and was thankfully interrupted by two Swedish grad students who chased and detained the also drunk Brock Turner before he could make good his escape.

I say thankfully, because the attack was already brutal enough for the victim as it was. Who knows what would have happened had the rapist not been interrupted.

Here’s one of the many articles chronicling the story of what the rapist’s dad wrote to the court. In it is a link to the victim’s statement to the court, which is an amazing piece that should be required reading for every person entering college, man and woman alike.

Most of my readers know that I teach law at the police academy.

I like to have a sex crimes detective come and talk to my recruit classes and they always bring a victim of a sex crime attack to talk to the class with them. The victim’s story is always intense, and the negative aftermath for the victim is still evident, sometimes even decades later. The police recruits can’t help but face the ugly reality of the effects of a rape.

I have said many times that rape is the most disgusting crime to commit against another person, because the degradation goes beyond the physical pain and cuts so deeply into the victim’s spirit and soul that they’re often never the same person again. Even the victim of a homicide has the luxury of never having to relive the attack in their minds again.

I imagine that Brock Turner is an entitled douchebag, and his father is probably a person I would also label a douchebag, but is it necessarily fair to attack him so vehemently for trying to support his son?

What the man said in his letter to the court was completely ridiculous, sure. 20 minutes of action? That’s a disgusting line right there. Action? What does that imply? I’ll let you summon your own unflattering conclusions, but I get the vision of dad slapping his son on the back like he done good.

Still, the letter was meant to sway the court to be lenient on his son, and who among us wouldn’t have written a similar letter to keep our 20 year old lily-white son from going to prison?

“Oh hell no, Don! Not me, or anybody with any decency, that’s who wouldn’t!” I can hear many of you screaming.

Bullshit.

Prison is rough, and they’re not sending out the same people they take in. Rarely is the end product better than the original.

That’s your son, and you’d do what you could to protect him, even though your son was, at least for one night, a monster.

It’s not only entitled, wealthy, white folk either.

At any time during most weeks, there are courtrooms all over the country holding sentencing hearings for suspects of all races and income levels, (though if we’re being honest, it’s mostly lower income minorities), for all sorts of heinous crimes. Behind many of these defendants in these various courtrooms are family, sometimes friends, parents and kids and sisters and brothers and others, all there to support their guilty loved ones.

They will speak or write letters on behalf of their beloved defendant, who has assaulted or murdered or yes, even raped another human being, because they are incredulous to the notion that their loved one could do such a thing.

It’s everyone else’s fault, really.

The victim shouldn’t have been where he was or did what she did. It’s the police too. The police are so often to blame for the guilt of their loved ones. Little Johnny shot at a police officer, yes, but they didn’t have to beat him up for it, no matter that he wasn’t going to go to jail nicely. They cling to something, anything really, that mitigates what they would otherwise have to face as truth, that their loved one is a criminal and has nobody to blame but themselves.

I’ve seen it dozens of times and I never know how to feel for the family of the defendant, because I’ve never been there.

I don’t know how I would be expected to feel about having a loved one who’s a convicted rapist, especially my own son.

The sins of the son are almost an indictment of the father, and that failure stings.

Do we wash our hands of them completely? Change the locks on the doors or even better, move while he’s in jail so he can’t find us when he gets out? Do I unfriend him on Facebook?

What’s the etiquette here?

Maybe behind closed doors, Brock Turner’s dad is a good dad. Maybe the guy who presumably put his own plans aside and paid shitloads of money for swim lessons and camps and trips, and who sat through swim meets and encouraged his son to be the best he could be talks to his boy about why he fucked up that night.

Maybe he tells him that gentlemen don’t pursue drunk women at  parties for sex. Maybe he’s said, “What the hell were you thinking, Brock? You assaulted a woman who was passed out? Unconscious?! Who fucking does that!? You’re a pathetic human being, and you committed a terrible crime! You’re throwing all that you…. no, we, worked so hard for! You need to come to grips with how much pain you’ve caused her, the victim, as well as to your mom and me! We gave you every opportunity in life that we could afford and you’ve ruined it. You have nobody to blame but yourself! I feel like you’ve ruined this whole family forever!”

Probably not, but maybe.

Either way, what is said between father and son in private may never be our business, but what is said in a letter to a judge trying to keep one’s son from going to prison is exactly what this letter sounded like to me. It was all about “my boy” and how he’ll never be the same boy he’s known for twenty years again.

There’s probably truth in that, and if you think about that in another context, it’s sad.

Even if it’s completely the son’s fault, can we not have even a little bit of empathy for his mom and dad? It’s mostly a rhetorical question, but I say yes.

Sure, the letter is self-serving and extremely tackily written. You bought your son huge ribeye steaks? That’s something that wealthy people say and don’t even realize that they’re being douchey for saying it. Did he say that the consequences of binge drinking are “unfortunate results?”

Ouch, he sure did.

To suggest sexual assault is an unfortunate result of binge drinking is horrendous, and extremely degrading to the victim of not only this crime, but every single sexual assault victim before her.

But, this is the father of the rapist. His son is now a rapist. The boy they used to dress up as a cowboy or Mario for Halloween will now have to register as a sex offender. The consequences of that are far reaching, and probably the main reason they’re appealing this conviction.

My son the sex offender.

He has to come to grips with that, and I imagine that’s not easy, especially in the hoity-toity circle of friends I’m sure these people run with.

I’m not suggesting that we should all call Dan Turner and apologize for calling him out as an asshat, because the chances are good that he really is an asshat.

All I’m suggesting is that we try to understand that, at the end of the day, this man’s son has altered not only the son’s own life and the life of the victim, but that of his whole family’s too. They no doubt planned to travel to watch him compete as a collegiate athlete, and maybe one day they hoped to be in RIO or Tokyo and watch their son compete for the good old, U.S. of A.

Instead, they had to sit in a courtroom and listen to what a fuckup their son had become. It probably cost them a lot of money in the process.

He’s a rapist, not an Olympian or even a collegiate swimmer anymore, and I’m sure that’s a bitter pill for him to swallow.

That he completely disregarded the effect of his words on the victim, or even failed to acknowledge her pain or his own son’s culpability is not shocking, or even mildly startling in this age of instant gratification.

This whole ordeal reminded me of a sexual assault alleged here on a college campus in St. Louis that I don’t believe ever went anywhere. I vaguely recall the dad of this young lady insisting that the police look into this further, and maybe we did, but probably we didn’t because athletes. That the woman in this Stanford case got a conviction speaks volumes to me about what a warrior she must be and my hat is off to her.

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Bashing police for political gain…pathetic.

 

I loathe election time.

It’s a time for everybody to witness America at its worst, and this year’s offering is no exception, in fact, it’s the most perfect example ever of what’s wrong in this country.

The bottom line is this: with about 300 million people in this country, how in the world are the people offered up to vote for this year the best available options?

The Democratic front runners are life long politicians with no clue about what it takes to raise a family in middle or lower class society, and the Republican choices are just, well, wow.

Surely, there are rational human beings out there who would love a crack at running this country, but can’t because they aren’t wealthy enough to be considered.

It’s ridiculous, but I digress.

I’m mad at the Democrats right now.

Bernie Sanders is sick and tired of seeing unarmed black men being shot by police. One of the few things that he and Hillary can agree upon is that local police departments are unfair to black communities.

I didn’t watch any of the debate because I was working a night shift to supplement my already worked day shift, in order to be able to afford a decent, middle class existence for my family. I only saw snippets and read some recaps in the papers.

Maybe I missed mention of the six police officers who’ve died in the line of duty in just the last few days alone. Were these deaths mentioned at all?

It should be really interesting to see how low these two stoop in their bashing of the police to garner minority votes. The same police officers who are there to protect them and their families or shut down roads so that they can get to their engagements or debates or whatever safely have to stand in these auditoriums and listen to such drivel without snapping.

Police officers don’t make the laws. We enforce the laws made by people who are supposed to have the interests of the people on their minds when they do make them.

If the laws are so unfair to the black community, then talk to the legislators, local and state especially. If the sentencing of black people is so out of proportion, then talk to the judiciary about that. I don’t control who can afford a good lawyer and who has to use an over-burdened public defender.

All we do is arrest the criminals, black and white and every shade in between. If the number of arrests of blacks is so disproportionate to the number of arrests of others, then maybe the reason for that lies somewhere outside of the responsibility of law enforcement?

I know that where I patrol, most of the suspects described to us police officers by victims are black males.

That’s not racism; that’s a fact.

Many of the victims are also black, perhaps even most. I can certainly attest to my experience being that most of the victims of VIOLENT crimes in my area are black, homicides especially.

You gonna blame the police for that?

No. I don’t accept that.

Police officers are most concerned with violent crimes. Those are the ones we want to solve more than any other crime, so that the most violent offenders are removed from society. That’s who we spend a great deal of our time looking for. Of course encounters with those suspects are  more fraught with potential danger and violence.

I was given a gun the day of my graduation. I was taught how and when to use it in the months preceding that graduation for a reason. It happens.

I don’t have experience in patrolling rural America, so I can’t speak as to what goes on out there, but in urban policing, and I don’t suspect St. Louis is any different from other large cities, I am more hyper-vigilant about my safety in certain areas and around certain people. Any police officer who doesn’t develop that sense won’t last long.

It’s not racist for me to be more concerned about my safety when I patrol in North St. Louis than when I work a secondary job in the suburbs. There is more violence in one than the other.

A LOT more violence.

That’s not the fault of the police either.

Citizens of all colors want to be able to raise their families in relative peace and safety. I think a lot of people who’ve never lived in a violent neighborhood would be shocked to learn what lengths people go to because they fear being shot simply while sitting in their living rooms. I’ve been in homes where all the activities of the family, like watching TV, etc. are done on a second floor because of the fear that a stray bullet from the street might come through a first floor window or wall. There is often, literally, no furniture on the first floor.

That’s sad, but again, that’s not the fault of the police.

Violent offenders don’t normally just appear and then vanish after committing a single crime.  Run the record of people committing violent robberies or shootings, etc. and I guarantee you that most of the suspects have considerable arrest histories.

The system lets them back out onto the streets to rob and steal until they finally manage to kill somebody, where I work, that’ll probably be a young black man, until they finally get thrown in jail for life.

Again, that’s not the fault of the street officer. You think we enjoy having to arrest the same clowns over and over again?

No. And they’ll tell us to our faces that they’ll be out again. It’s frustrating, and they’re right, but we’ll keep arresting them.

That’s what police officers do. We arrest people who violate the laws that Bernie and Hillary and the Bush’s and people like them make.

Well, that’s not ALL we do. We’re also supposed to keep the roads safe and man large events in your town like ball games and street fairs and what not. All those events your cities and towns have that are so much fun? Yeah, most of your local cops can’t attend them with their families, because they have to work them. Nothing happens in a big city without the police having to be involved.

We’re also expected to psychoanalyze criminals and victims on the spot. Can you recognize mental illness in a stranger versus an LSD induced episode? Should it matter? If the person is dangerous, should I care that he’s bipolar or whacked out on drugs?

I sure don’t care initially. I care about going home safely after my shift ends, and I’ll not make any apologies for that. If a mentally ill person is allowed to get to the point where he’s on the street causing a disturbance and “in need of help,” whose fault is that? We don’t blame his family or his doctor or pharmacist for not checking in on him, nope. We wait until the person is out of control and then we call the police and demand they deal with the violent outburst without anybody getting hurt.

And that happens almost every single time, except for when it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you hear about it and then you take sides. On the left are the police bashers demanding reform and criminal charges. On the right are the police apologists who support us blindly. Neither side is 100% right, and most of either side has never had to deal with the mentally ill while they’re having a dangerous episode in public. While in a police uniform.

Yeah, the uniform makes a difference. Almost always, it makes it more challenging.

The very legislators who bash the police are to blame for allowing mentally ill people to roam the streets of our communities because it’s too costly to address their needs in a proper facility. Many law enforcement officers around the country barely have a high school degree, let alone a Masters in Psychology. Many are paid under $15 an hour. Guess what sort of people are going to take a job with that much responsibility for such little pay?

Yikes is right. That’s a lot of responsibility AND power given to a person working for not so much reward. The end result of that isn’t always pretty.

The drug war belongs to the legislators as well. Make marijuana legal and guess what? Law enforcement officers will stop making marijuana arrests.

I’m not a police homer by any stretch of the imagination, but there has to be a stand made by the people who understand that the system is fucked up FAR beyond the police.

The police officer on the street is just an easy scapegoat for a system that fails to educate inner city kids or grant job interviews to people named LaQuita or Tyrone because of their names alone. That sort of racism is where society is really hurting the underprivileged.

Do you know who does give jobs to Tyrones and LaQuitas?

Large urban cities and police departments. This is why it pisses me off to no end that the implication is that it’s the black community versus the white police.

The law enforcement community absolutely includes blacks, and there are plenty of white criminals and their ilk who also hate the police.

I would challenge any private company in the St.Louis area to compare their minority hiring to the St. Louis Police Department’s. I work with great officers of every race, sexual orientation and ethnic background.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Urban kids don’t want to listen to a 40 year old white dude, no matter how cool I totally am. A black officer from their neighborhood though? Yeah, that’s a person they can look up to and emulate and strive to be like, or even better, strive to be better than.

We have those men and women and they go into the worst communities every day and make a difference just by being who they are.

Do police officers fuck up sometimes? Absolutely, but it’s the exception and not the norm.

Black children getting second rate educations and limited opportunities at employment is the norm. Those norms are not police related, and I would argue that they are way more detrimental to the growth of minority communities than any threat of being shot by a white police officer will be in most of their lives.

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Posted in Police, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments