Seems we want police to use deadly force to save us but not themselves, but there needs to be an alternative to killing…

March 31, 2018

Let’s face it, being a policeman is a dangerous and often thankless job.

But that of course does not excuse reckless or unprofessional behavior.

On the one hand, we castigate a policeman who would hang back while people are being killed (the recent Florida high school massacre) and on the other hand laud the heroic action of a policeman who shoots and kills an armed attacker (the recent school shooting in Maryland).

But there are riots in Sacramento after officers shot and killed a suspect, purportedly fearing for their own lives and deciding to shoot first and ask questions later, perhaps fearing that if they didn’t take action first they wouldn’t be around to ask the questions.

While I certainly don’t know all the facts and will never know really because I was not there I do have a lot of opinions about the killing of Stephon Clark, a young black man in Sacramento, at the hands of police. The incident occurred on March 18, 2018.

And I wrote that last paragraph a day or so ago but realized I did not know enough to really post anything on this. And maybe I still don’t.

But the most important point is that there just must be an alternative or  option away from deadly force. And all my other thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience among the races, are almost beside the point.

It appears that the young man was unarmed. All he had was a cell phone. But in the dark of night, perhaps, someone thought he had a gun and was pointing it at officers. And he had been running away from officers who were pursuing him as a suspect in car break-ins that had just been occurring, it was reported (I’m not even sure on that). The officers were aided in the search by a police helicopter.

But someone, a voice (you can hear on the body cam tapes), says “gun..” and then 20 — yeah 20, shots were fired. Mr. Clark died as a result. No gun was found.

While the official autopsy has not been released, the family of the slain man had their own private autopsy done and its results have been released. According to it, of the 20 shots fired, eight hit the victim, the first at least to the front of his body but most in the back. The theory put forward is that the initial shot or shots spun the victim around.

But 20 shots? It sure seems like overdoing it to me. And if they could not see whether he had a gun or not, how could they possibly justify the shots? All those shots.

So it was a mistake. But why do these “mistakes” happen disproportionately to young black men? That is the news we get.

(I understand one of the officers who confronted Clark was black. And the Sacramento police chief is identified as black.)

Well I could think of all kinds of reasons for the mistake or the jumping to conclusions, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that there needs to be an alternative to shoot first and ask questions later.

In this case there is the troubling situation in which for some reason officers at some point turned off the audio on the body cameras. I think this was after they realized a terrible mistake was made.

Also, so someone thinks they see a gun. Why couldn’t the officers take a defensive position and yell “drop the gun”? I know, if the man really had a gun he might just shoot before anyone could do anything.

And do we want Barney Fife-like officers who would cower in the face of armed danger?

A former Sacramento County sheriff has a talk show on radio. While he admitted it was a tragedy he felt it should be pointed out that Mr. Clark had a rap sheet that included two armed robberies and other crimes, while being careful to also note that still that does not justify his killing.

(I am fairly sure the officers had no idea who they were confronting.)

I personally have heard reports on this story on the radio and on television (via my computer) and read them on the print media (via computer of course) and do not feel I have all the facts. Even the police video is not clear. I mean I think the assumption is that the victim had been breaking into cars and may have tried to break a window of a house. He was eventually shot in the backyard of what was described has his grandparents’ home (again the police apparently did not know his connection with the place). And one report said something about his grandmother had told family members to knock on the back window if they did not have a key. All very confusing.

But the important thing here remains the fact that there is a continuing problem of what appear to be unjustified police shootings and they seem to fall disproportionately on black people, and more precisely on young black men, although I also heard statistics to suggest that something like 44 percent of police shootings nationwide are in error and all races are victims.

I was disappointed with a PBS Newshour report on the incident I watched. They seemed to ignore the victim’s criminal background and the black news correspondent used a leading question when she asked the black family lawyer of the victim what he thought of “white people” who say Stephon Clark should have complied with police orders to give himself up.

(The form the question took seemed to imply white people show their bias when they ask a logical and reasonable question. Asking that question does not automatically mean or even suggest one is racist or bigoted.)

While not complying with police orders does not justify a killing in and of itself — it was part of the situation that cannot be left out in the explanation of what happened. If you do leave it out, then you must not want all the facts that could lead to a solution of the problem.

Law-abiding citizens, no matter their race, know it is never a good idea not to comply with police orders. And I think non-law abiding citizens know this too most of the time — but they are risk takers.

The risk is not worth it.

But let’s find an alternative to deadly force to be used where it can be used.

 


Officer in Sandra Bland case should have waited for backup he had called…

July 24, 2015

Just watched the infamous video of the Sandra Bland arrest.

I could only come to one conclusion: the highway patrol officer in Texas was way out of line and obviously not fit to handle the pressure of the job. I would certainly not be able to handle it. People can make me quite angry at times but I know my limits. I could not be a policeman, but neither should the officer in the video.

I also observe, that as so often is the case in these type of incidents, the woman would have done better to simply comply with the officer’s initial request and then order. The officer actually politely requested that she extinguish her cigarette and although she apparently did at some point she did offer much resistance and copped an attitude.

And I even thought he kind of provoked her by saying at least once: “you seem irritated.”

She had every right I thought for questioning why the officer was making such a big deal about what he said was a failure to make a turn signal. But sometimes it’s better to hold one’s tongue.

But at one point the officer orders her out of the car. She eventually complies, well, after he attempts to physically pull her out and threatens to “light her up?” (not sure about the phrase) but she questions why she is being ordered out of her car and if she even has to get out.

What is not shown in any of the footage I saw was what happened after she exited the car. But there was apparently some kind of scuffle, and I think by that time other officers had arrived. And I think in a voice recording Bland is heard complaining that they had slammed her head somehow.

I was recently stopped in my own personal vehicle by a highway patrol officer. I just played it cool. He admitted up front that he was new and strangely enough he seemed to admit the stop was just a pretext. He said I had a license plate sticker that looked a little faded (whoever gets stopped for that?), and he mentioned as an aside that I seemed to be following a truck too closely. I in turn admitted to some embarrassment in that I am a professional truck driver. My excuse for the possible following too  close, which I don’t think I told him, was that I was getting ready to pass the truck but was blocked because the patrol car was coming up in the other lane. He up and told me that they (the highway patrol) were on the lookout for drugs. He asked me if I had any illegal items. I answered no (both because that was true and it seemed like the obvious best answer). We had a nice chat and I was on my way without a citation, albeit with an irritating delay and irritation I kept to myself. I mention this because in reality I was irked. I was minding my own business exercising my freedom of movement and I get stopped for what seemed like bogus reasons. He kept asking me where I had been and where I was going. Like that is really his business? I mean I know if there was some observable probable cause for stopping me and then in the course of doing so contraband was in plain sight or I consented to a search and contraband was found, then the officer would have been within the law. But I felt he overstepped (maybe he did not). But I am alive and Sandra Bland is not.

She was found dead from an apparent suicide in her cell done my hanging herself with a plastic bag. Some are questioning that. There is some indication that she had mental problems, and it was reported by police that she had indicated that she was suicidal in her booking info she filled out.

And I did not bother to mention yet, since this has been in the news, that the woman was black.

I am white. I was stopped by a rookie officer on a pretext in order that he might spot contraband.

But our deceased woman it seems may have fell victim to what black people refer to as being stopped while black. Purportedly the officer had just previously stopped a white woman and let her off with a warning (don’t know for sure about that one).

I note in the video that the officer calls for backup. Good idea. He should have left her alone in the car and waited for the backup and a woman officer perhaps to talk her out of the vehicle (if even her exciting the vehicle was necessary). And as I noted earlier once backup did arrive there were still problems. But I don’t see why it was so important for her to get out of the car. If nothing else, waiting could have offered protection against liability to the officer.

The officer may or may not have been correct in deciding to consider her to be resisting arrest. And I think the law or at least common sense requires that persons being detained lawfully by police show some amount of decorum.

And even if you feel you are being detained unlawfully, better to fight it out in an administrative hearing or court later and live to tell about it.

I don’t know if these types of incidents are escalating or if they are just being reported more frequently because they have come into the news and because these videos are ubiquitous.

Whatever the case, something has to be done to totally revamp police procedures.

If police had a different attitude eventually there might be a change of attitude by people who have been brought up to both fear and disrespect police.

There of course will always be trouble makers out there.

P.s.

There are suspicious gaps and signs of editing in the video, and then there is always the what happened just before the cameras rolled and after and what angle they were at and so on. But I think what I saw tells the story enough to show there was a tragedy that could have been avoided by an officer with a little more tact and patience. We should not have to live in fear of the police.


We need to weed out the bullies on police forces…

April 10, 2015

Well at least one more video of the fatal shooting by a policeman during a traffic stop in South Carolina has been released, this one a dash cam on the police cruiser.

There are still gaps in the incident, but so far nothing to make the cop look good or make it look as if the case was anything but basically murder or manslaughter.

We can see that the victim did run away while the officer had gone back to his car. Then there is a gap. I have not seen any evidence of a struggle, but there might have been at some point. What of course can be seen is the cop firing multiple shots at the back of the man as he was running away. After the man is down it appears the cop drops his Taser near the victim (not sure about this), as if to plant evidence? Don’t know.

Right now it just seems to officer panicked and made the wrong decisions, just as the victim did by running away.

Now this was another one of a string of white cop black suspect incidents. But now there is a video circulating of a group of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, all white (I believe), beating a white suspect while he is down on the ground with his hands behind his back.

Some thugs wear uniforms.

Certainly I would not want to or even be able to be a cop. But I think it’s time for all good police officers to unite and help weed out the thugs among them.

There will of course be law breakers who will try to use these incidents in their own defense and claim any time they are detained that they are suffering excessive force — trying to turn the tables on the law, so to speak.

But something needs to be done to remove the out-of-control officers, and there seem to be a large number of them all over the country.

Even though certainly most cops are not bullies, bullies are probably attracted to police work. But all they do is create a lawless atmosphere that poisons society.

My original post on the South Carolina incident follows:

————–

Are Police ever justified in using deadly force against someone detained for a minor offense and not threatening anyone’s life if he or she were to get away?

I don’t know what the law says but on a moral and practical and humane basis I would say no.

I say this after watching a video (admittedly it might not tell the whole story, but its seems pretty plain) of a South Carolina policeman shooting a black man in the back several times after he ran away. The dead man had reportedly been stopped for a defective tail light on his car.

How can you justify shooting someone for that?

The officer reportedly said he shot in self defense. I did not see any portion of this video or any other (if they might exist) that demonstrates the officer was attacked. However I just now read another story that claims the video shows a tussle between the officer and the victim, with a Taser stun gun the officer originally used dropping to the ground. But it appears that, whatever, he shot the man with his service hand gun (and this is on the video I saw) in the back several times as he was running away. The officer clearly is not in danger at this point. I’ll try to clarify here: I think there were eight shots, at least one if not more or all apparently hit the man in the back.

When some of these recent reports of black people (all males so far) being shot by policemen, seemingly for no other reason than being black and maybe using some poor judgment in their confrontations with police, began I was dubious and gave the benefit of the doubt to the police.

No more.

Every case may be different, but there seems to be a clear pattern of policemen being out of control.

In many cases we must be hiring the wrong type of people to be policemen.

This is not an indictment of all policemen and police women. But there is a problem, a deadly problem.

( I realize it’s a jungle out there, but we need people capable of dealing with that in the correct way.)

This is not something that needs a lot of discussion and panels and studies. It just needs attention now.

We need better screening of new hires and better training. And bad cops need to be weeded out. Police unions might resist, I don’t know. But it would be their long-term interest not to. And the public is in charge here not the unions.

What if you were stopped for a defective tail light? Probably you would not run away. But what if you made a move that startled the policeman? He might just shoot you. Over a defective tail light.

A news story said the victim in this case may have run because he was in trouble with the law over back child support.

He did not deserve to die for being an irresponsible parent, if he was one, either.

It would be better in these incidents to let someone get away than use deadly force. Each case is different, of course.

The policeman in this incident has been fired.

He has also been charged with murder. Some have speculated had not a bystander taken a video whether the officer would now be in trouble.


Ferguson was handled badly to say the least, but Cleveland shooting seems outrageous…

November 27, 2014

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that I have led such a peaceful life and that I grew up in safe neighborhoods.

My last post was about the Ferguson, Mo. incident that has resulted in so much violence and hardened positions between black and white and particularly between many in the black community against the police (I’m talking nationwide not just in Ferguson or the St. Louis area). And I guess even some non-black people are up in arms about what they see as heavy-handedness by white policeman. The Huffington Post, which has never been impartial but up until now was still worth reading to glean some meaning out of things, has dropped any sign of objectivity in the Ferguson case — siding with those who claim white policemen are out to get them.

And I am not claiming there is no problem or violation of civil rights. There is indeed a problem. I do think the police need to change their tactics and I do think more caution needs to be taken to prevent deadly mistakes. And there ought to be options other than lethal force. But also there needs to be a change in the mindset of those who seem to overlook the fact that if you engage in crime or vandalism or other types of uncivilized behavior and if you go out of your way to confront the police or refuse to comply with their orders when they are carrying out their lawful duties to protect the public, you are headed into dangerous territory.

I also think that as far as the black community is concerned, that there are those, actually the majority, who are just ordinary citizens and who do their best to get along in this world and live up to their responsibilities but who must contend with troublemakers and lawbreakers among their society and too often let them get the upper hand. They need to shun the bad actors and they need to get politically involved in their own communities. They could get elected to city councils and make sure that their police forces look more like themselves. And in the worst-case scenarios where there seems to be no hope, the best option might be to move elsewhere where things are more peaceful — if that is at all an option.

But the latest incident (and there seem to be so many) is where a 12-year old boy in Cleveland, Oh. was shot to death by a policeman. The boy was black and the policeman, a rookie, was white. The boy had reportedly been waving a handgun around scaring people. The gun turned out to be what stories report as a bb-gun. There’s video showing what happened (I have not yet viewed it). From what I have read, the officer acted awful quickly. And it seems surly some other means of making contact with the kid and apprehending him could have been taken. Reportedly the police cruiser (two cops in it) simply rolled up and within two seconds the boy was shot — reportedly after not responding to previous orders to drop the gun.

From what I have taken in so far of the Cleveland incident, it seems outrageous. There just had to be some other option for the cops who were in relative safety in the patrol car (I of course don’t know or can’t see all that happened and exactly how it took place, video notwithstanding or even with video that never shows all).

Yes, there is no doubt something has to be done. And talk and platitudes won’t get it. And I think blacks have every right to be angry. The question is, who all should they be angry at. But whatever, action needs to be taken. Peaceful action. Political action. But action and now.

Meanwhile, I am thankful that I live where peace reigns.

Well actually there is violence all around in society and the world, but I am just referring in general to my own life.

May all have a good Thanksgiving.


Violence by hooligans should never be tolerated; civil society cannot allow itself to be intimidated…

August 11, 2011

Police being overwhelmed by rioters/looters in London and other urban centers in the United Kingdom, and then the slow, timid response at first, but the now strong response authorized by their prime minister and its apparent success (although it’s not over yet at last report) made me think of the so-called race riots in the U.S. in the 1960s.

The story is really quite similar. It starts with legitimate grievances involving race relations (how minorities are treated by the authorities, police) and poverty and lack of opportunity and so on. But once things get out of hand and break into a riot, the opportunists, the lawless, the hooligans, the scum of the earth or the scum of the earth in training take over.

Destroying private property, theft (of televisions and other electronic equipment and other goods, even candy bars) is completely unjustifiable and of course ironically is counterproductive. If you destroy your own neighborhood you have no place to live.  Just as bad, you create a backlash from people who are justifiably shocked at the lack of law and the disorder and the threat to safety.

Case in point:

I’m a white guy who has been fortunate enough to grow up and live in relative peace away from the urban centers. During my teenage years (and later) I watched those riots on TV and saw people looting stores and destroying property. I was outraged. I never could figure out and still cannot figure out why the authorities do not step in quicker with a much stronger response. Once things get out of hand and it is clear that local police cannot handle things, then as far as I am concerned it is time to pull out all stops and call in police from other areas and even the National Guard and even the regular military if need be. Yes that is a problem in that the military, except for Military Police, are not trained in civil policing, but they could be somewhat, and besides, drastic situations call for drastic measures. There are dangers to using raw recruits, say from the National Guard, because you can wind up with tragedies such as Kent State.

But the tragedy is that we never have made it plain that lawlessness cannot be tolerated, so we have moved from the summertime riots of the 60s to wanton drug-fueled warfare, with drive-by shootings and the rest.

Also, I would submit that the modern conservative movement and now to some extent the Tea Party are an outgrowth of 1960s-style lawlessness and disorder that so threatened normal society and so injured its psyche that it ever so gradually turned politically right. They saw the liberals make excuses for the lawbreakers — they grew up in poverty, they don’t have a chance, they are discriminated against.

And let me stop right here to clarify that I am not in any way casting aspersions upon any one race. There is a too large element in all races that use the opportunity of circumstances to justify their own lack of ambition and their own proclivity to lawlessness.

While the current riots in the United Kingdom may have had their start in an incident in which a  young black man was shot by police (and he was by all accounts a criminal and the police said he fired first, but there is a question on that), the riots seem to involve people, primarily youths, of all races (hard to tell unless you have good video, because in a lot of the politically-correct print media, race is left out). And rather than protests it just seems as if it is something to do.

I have never been to the United Kingdom, but I read that most of their police do not even carry guns and there is always a controversy on whether to arm them. Their prime minister has now authorized police to use all methods at their disposal — they’re even considering “rubber bullets”, oh my God! They also are using or may use water cannon. Hey, whatever works.

No I do not suggest that they do it Syrian style and just mow people down or send in the secret police — that is not the civilized or western-democratic way to do things, to say the least.

For those who have legitimate grievances — try politics and non-violence methods — Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior had a lot of success with it (although sadly, King was brought down in the violence of a sniper’s bullet, and that violence begat even more violence).

As I have already stated, there are questions as to how much race even has to do with the riots in the UK. Some observers there say hooligans of all races are taking part. And many people there on the scene, as well as elsewhere, look at all the youngsters involved, some as young as 10 (maybe even younger), and ask, “where are the parents?”

While we all have a duty to our fellow man and we must strive for living conditions that allow hope and opportunity for all, civil society must not allow itself to be intimidated by the lawless.

On the other hand, people with legitimate grievances, grievances that are left to fester, can be expected to explode in rage at some point — but it is questionable how much the chaos in the UK has to do with unrest among otherwise law-abiding citizens and how much has to do with a troublesome element. It seems that the bad element has taken an opportunity to go on its idea of a lark.


Extreme situations can call for extreme measures, but you still have to be careful not to shoot the innocent…

January 25, 2011

Terrorism in terribly frustrating, as well as dangerous. Anytime there is a lack of law and order it is frustrating and dangerous.

I bring this up in relation to the latest airport bombing in Moscow where 35 people were killed and 185 injured, and then of course in relation as well to all terrorist acts and all break downs of law and order.

The frustrating thing is that terrorists are hard to catch, especially when they kill themselves in the process of committing their terror. Of course someone usually sets them up, but they usually work in secret. Except sometimes they don’t work in total secrecy. What about the imams or whatever they call themselves who fairly openly preach hatred from their mosques? And I am not picking solely on Muslims or factions of Muslims. There are Christian terrorists and terrorists of all kind of creeds.

But anyway, the quite understandable immediate reaction is that we have to go after someone. If you’re George W. Bush you just wildly flail out at any convenient target, Afghanistan/Iraq, and you send whole armies to look for one man, Osama Bin Laden, and when that doesn’t work, he remains elusive, you just say you weren’t really looking for him anyway and change your rationale every few months as to why you have sent in the armies. You end up killing and wounding thousands upon thousands of more people — most of whom who are totally innocent– than were killed in the original terrorist act.

And let’s don’t pick on George W., because if you are Barack Obama you just keep the whole thing going because, well, you don’t want anyone to think you are a coward and truth be known, unpopular war(s) or not, if you pull out the American public would turn against you because now you made all of them feel like cowards.

But I am getting off the subject I wanted to address here in the beginning, that is dealing with terrorist acts and mass breakdowns of law and order, such as in Oakland, Ca. (and other urban areas).

I was listening to Dr. Bill Wattenburg on KGO Radio last night and he was saying that he would not be surprised if the Russians got tough now and went directly after terrorist leaders (and the news says this morning that is what they are vowing to do). Now Wattenburg usually talks about scientific matters and math puzzles and helpful hints around the home and ranch and logging camp and cowboy camp and claims to be an expert on or have taken part in everything from designing freeway interchanges and rapid transit systems to missiles and nuclear weapons — he’ll also tell you how to get a caterpillar tractor unstuck from the mud. But when he ventures into politics he sometimes is a little reactionary, although to his credit he can also often be fairly moderate in his views and seems to try to come down on the side of the sensible.

But he seemed to be rooting for something like the secret police (and I don’t mean he said it directly) going after the bad people, something police states have always done in the name of law and order but also for the purpose of retaining their own political power. And I read up on him and saw that he had in the past called for sending in the military and going house to house in Oakland in reaction to the ghetto crimes and drive-by shootings and so forth. And I’m just using Oakland as an example. All the big cities and even small cities have gang and violence problems.

But anyway, why should law-abiding citizens have to live in fear?

In extreme circumstances, at some point, extreme tactics are called for.

Now in the case of airport bombings, Wattenberg says that experts have looked at it and agree that one of the big problems is baggage. Apparently there is no fool-proof way of checking baggage without opening it all (and then ka-boom?). He said ultimately the only practical way of forestalling a bomber, such as the one in Moscow who apparently brought a bomb in with him to the International Arrivals section of the airport (I imagine from the outside, not from an airplane), would be to ban individuals from taking baggage directly in with them when they go to the airports (and he claims people don’t need nearly the amount of baggage they think they do).

Now we have not had a spate of airport bombings here in the United States as of yet, but if we did extreme measures would have to be taken — the public would eventually demand it. It’s already getting tougher to board an airplane, what with body scans and in some cases mandatory feelups — but the call for all of that actually came from the government, not the people, at least not directly, but the government feels it must show the people it is doing something.

(I don’t fly much, hardly ever. Most of my flying was done in the late 1960s and early 70s when all you had to do is buy a ticket at the counter and get on the plane as simple as if you were getting on the Greyhound bus.)

Although I do not consider myself as politically reactionary as Wattenburg, I have often thought myself, ever since the urban ghetto riots of the 60s and into the gang violence of today, that in some cases martial law should be declared and the wrongdoers rooted out. Easier said than done I realize. But sometimes you feel enough is enough.

(I recall reading something a few years ago about how the police in one town in, Arkansas I believe, tried to cordon off a bad neighborhood and do random searches, but I think that was eventually prohibited by court order.)

And do we really want things to get as out of hand as they are in Mexico?

In the case of terrorism there is always the problem of doing more harm in the name of good than was inflicted in the first place (ala Bush). The Russians have a recent history of storming into hostage situations and killing everyone, good and bad.

I recall that during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of the late 1970s when Americans were held captive by terrorists backed by the Iranian government that many folks here at home were actually suggesting that we bomb the embassy where they were being held.

Somewhere in all of this there has to be a middle ground between impotence, doing basically nothing but maybe feeling up innocent airplane passengers, and ham-handed foolishness, starting major wars or storming into schools Russian style and killing schoolchildren and their parents in the process.

And I do think that in the case of lawlessness in the urban areas, governors should declare martial law and root out the gangs. It would have to be done selectively and carefully and unfortunately probably would require sophistication we do not have at this time. But to surrender whole communities to lawlessness in unacceptable, or should be.


Somewhat violent street protest in Oakland as transit cop gets two years with credit for time served in shooting; Personal and public safety depends upon cooperation with police…

November 6, 2010

FINAL UPDATE:

So there was some violence after all in the street protest in Oakland over the transit cop involuntary manslaughter sentencing. Some cars and I believe other property was damaged and a policeman had his gun and holster ripped off of him (the culprit was immediately subdued) and I think I heard at least one cop was injured. As many as 100 people were arrested after police told a crowd marching toward the Fruitvale transit station (site of a deadly New Year’s incident in 2009) to disperse and they refused.

Unfortunately, the violence only serves to perpetuate the idea that urban ghetto residents are just plain violent and hard to handle.

The anger of residents, actions of outside agitators notwithstanding, is understandable. Law abiding citizens, who no doubt make up the majority of local residents, need to get with their city leaders and police and work things out. Ironically, Jerry Brown, California’s governor-elect, is a former mayor of Oakland — he was not able to change things.

I tried to get this update in here earlier today, but I had computer problems and paying work to do. But here it is.

—————————

So far I have not read of any major disturbances or any at all, actually, since the sentence was handed down Friday of the white transit officer who fatally shot an un-armed black man almost two years ago as he was pinning him down on a train station platform in Oakland, Ca. It’s not quite nightfall on Friday as I am actually writing this, though. (My blog service dates this blog a day later when it gets late in the day my time.)

——————–

UPDATE:

Now as of 7:45 p.m. Friday night I hear an AM radio report and see a report in the Oakland Tribune online that some 200 protestors are being boxed in by Oakland police and there now seems to be some reports of confrontations, but no real or major violence yet  — some arrests being made, they say. People are in there and can’t get out, it is reported.

——————————————–

At first glance and especially if you did not know or remember the details of the incident, the fact that the now former officer was only sentenced to two years with credit for time served, meaning that he has less than a year to go (I understand) it would seem an unjust sentence — two years for what surely appears at first glance as murder.

But the officer, one Johannes Mehserle, 28, was actually convicted of involuntary manslaughter — not murder. Part of his defense was that in confusion he thought he had grabbed for his taser gun, but unfortunately grabbed his service revolver. He also said he thought the victim, one Oscar Grant, 22, was armed.

This is not court and this is not a straight news report, so I can insert here that poor Mr. Grant had somewhat of a record of trouble with the law even though he had also been employed as a fast food worker and in the butcher business, as well.

It was also claimed that he had resisted arrest — although of course there is dispute over that.

The incident was the result of reports of fighting on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train after New Year’s partying.

Unless the former transit cop is just a terrible person who was racist and got away with murder, which somehow I doubt, the incident is a major tragedy for all involved.

At the least I would hope that Mr. Mehserle is never again allowed to work in law enforcement or security or any job that includes carrying a weapon.

I understand there is a pending, and separate, federal civil rights case against him. Somehow I don’t think that is right. I never understand how someone can be found innocent of a crime — in the is case willful homicide, but then found guilty of basically the same crime but under a different set of laws. If it was a mistake, he did not willfully deprive Grant of his civil rights. It was a mistake, a negligent one perhaps, but a mistake.

It’s kind of like O.J. Simpson being acquitted on murder in criminal court but responsible for wrongful death in a civil court — to me that makes a mockery of justice — but that’s just me.

BART’s cops need better training than they must have been getting and perhaps BART needs to up its standards for its security officers.

But at the time I heard more than one, usually older, black person say that young people (all people really) need to realize that resisting law officers is dangerous — cooperation is in one’s own self interest.

Just as importantly it is in the public’s interest that people comply with law enforcement so that it can do its job in protecting the people it serves, which is all of us.


Going in guns blazing Russian style may not be the answer, but neither is waiting (too long)…

April 6, 2009

Somewhere there has to be a happy medium in police response in these mass shooting incidents.

On the one hand, we don’t want the police to go blazing in blindly and shoot or gas everyone Russian style, but on the other hand waiting nearly 45 minutes as at Binghamton or waiting for a long time while children continued to be shot as at Columbine several years ago seems to me unacceptable.

(At Binghamton some survivors reportedly hid for several hours before they were freed from perceived danger. At Columbine it took police something like two hours to move in after the shooting started, even though there was some police presence within minutes.)

I’m 100 percent for officer safety, but it is a police duty to protect citizens in harm’s way, not wait until the coast is clear.

I have not studied these things and I don’t have the answer – except that I wish the answer was that there would be no more such incidents to worry about.

But I can’t get over the memory of Columbine and the video of police waiting as children screamed for help and hung out windows while the rampage was still going on.

And I recall that in the not-so-long ago Virginia Tech incident there is a famous video of a cop standing there with his gun drawn but not moving and the sounds of shots from the shooter’s weapon – the death toll rising.

And I know full well that policemen face as much danger as if they were in a war zone. Within a day of the Binghamton incident, in which 13 innocent people died, three officers were gunned down responding to a domestic dispute over a dog in Pittsburgh.

All I am wishing is that the experts use these incidents to reassess their standard operating procedures.

Rescuers need to be rescuing not waiting unnecessarily. And I already noted at the top that we don’t want to go in blindly with guns blazing and kill the hostages and get police killed in the process too, but this has become such a problem, this mass shooting business, we need improvement in our response tactics.

P.s.

And why is it that these nut cases have such apparently easy access to high powered weapons and why is it that there always seems to have been clues – comments and personal behavior – before hand that went unheeded?

I will answer my own question, in part. We live in a free country and have a right to keep and bear arms. I don’t want to lose freedom of movement and freedom of privacy and of self defense, but when someone gives off public clues, perhaps we need to listen and take them seriously.

And I would think anyone who makes threats loses some of his or her rights at that moment.


Easy to jump to conclusions in Binghamton-like incidents; I still cling to gun ownership rights, though…

April 3, 2009

It’s so easy to jump to conclusions in these mass killings as the one today in upstate New York. I thought maybe it was a disgruntled white man going after immigrant targets and then I heard the suspect (presumed dead now) was perhaps a Vietnamese immigrant himself.

Also I read that he was carrying false I.D. and that he was recently let go from a job at IBM, implying that he kind of went postal.

There’s been so many mass shootings here in the United States recently, and one in Germany — not counting the usual terrorist acts overseas — that one almost becomes numb to the news — almost.

It’s still a developing story in Binghamton, N.Y., but apparently at least 13 people were killed or 14 including the gunman. It took place at a facility where immigrants were taking citizenship tests and English classes, it was reported.

And while I am a supporter of Second Amendment gun owner rights (although I find the wording of that provision highly ambiguous), I always wonder why we seem as a society helpless to keep obviously demented folks from obtaining weapons and going on shooting rampages. And the problem is even worse when you consider how easily criminals can get hold of weapons, often with a firepower that outmatches the police. But I cling to gun ownership rights, primarily due to the historical aspect of Americans being free to protect themselves from bad guys and bad government if need be (read the Declaration of Independence). I know full well, though, that most folks don’t have guns and don’t plan to get any.

The only societies that seem to be relatively free of gun violence, among the populace at least, are dictatorships who run police states.

Even Israel where the authorities and the citizenry have had to be ever vigilent against terrorism for more than half a century because its neighbors have often vowed to do way with that country cannot stop terrorist violence.

We’ll find out more later today or tomorrow about the facts and possible motives in the  case, hopefully.

Meanwhile, we have to ask ourselves is all this gun violence on a radical increase — it can’t be all due to more reporting via the internet — and if so, why and what can we do about it?

Do we just have to accept it all as the hazards of everyday life?

(Catch my contribution to the German-American experience and call up http://vonwalther.wordpress.com )


USA’s main security threat may be Mexico and there are valid reasons to keep their trucks out…

March 25, 2009

While we are still fighting wars in the Middle East for somewhat nebulous reasons and no clear idea of our goals, the nation on our own southern border, Mexico, is in the midst of what might as well be called a civil war, with 7,000 deaths in the last 16 months, including high officials in its federal government, as well as town mayors and police chiefs, some of whom have sought political asylum in the U.S.

The Obama administration has announced a kind of token response on the border, but as I understand it, they are pulling immigration personnel from out of our interior to do so, conveniently letting the enforcement of the hiring of illegals slide as a sop to those who for some strange reason support the underground economy of illegal aliens, many of whom come from Spanish speaking nations to the south, most notably Mexico.

While some of the illegal migrants have gone back south because of the higher unemployment numbers in the USA, they face a problem in their homeland because their government is still corrupt after all these years, but it is trying to fight off drug lords, some of whom employ paramilitary against the Mexican soldiers and police.

Meanwhile, the violence is spilling across the border and is reaching into our northern cities, such as Chicago. Much of it involves illegals fighting over drug disputes, but sometimes hapless illegals, maybe not involved in the drug trade, get caught in the crossfire or become victims of kidnapings and ransom schemes, another popular line of work for criminals south of the border.

Mixed in with all this somehow is an ongoing dispute between Mexico and the United States over a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) program to allow a limited number of Mexican trucks to be able to cross the border and have a run of our country. Congress cancelled funding for the program recently, but the Obama administration has indicated it might resume the program in the future.

In retaliation, Mexico, one of our top trading partners, has applied tariffs on 90 U.S. products. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico to smooth things over in the dispute and to promise the President Felipe Calderon administration there that the U.S. will help it in its fight against the drug cartels. And amidst all this, a Mexican defense official has warned the U.S. against any military incursions into his country (ala the Mexican-American War of the 1840s and the chase after Pancho Villa in the 1920s, I would suppose).

The truck program was cancelled in part supposedly over safety concerns, but probably also because the Teamster’s Union, a supporter of Democrats, was worried about the loss of American jobs.

Now before you go thinking I think this was a bad thing, think again. I was a trucker and as things stand I don’t think Mexican trucks should be allowed past our border. And I know something – not everything – about this subject, because as I said I was a trucker (and never a Teamster member) and furthermore I dealt with the border trucking scenario and know the landscape (my experience was at Nogales, Az. and Otay Mesa, Ca., and San Diego, Ca.).

Now first you need to know that our northern neighbor Canada runs its trucks throughout the U.S.

But the Canada/U.S. situation is nothing like what we face with Mexico.

A U.S. trucker can cross the border into Canada and go just about anywhere.

On the other hand, American trucks do not cross into Mexico and who would want to?

Canada is a civilized nation with the rule of law (probably more so than the USA, in some respects).

Mexico is highly corrupt (despite the efforts to clean things up by Calderon) with the bribes and intimidation as a standard operating procedure in business and law enforcement and everyday life there.

I once talked to a Mexican trucker and he told me that when he drove in his country there were no truck scales. But a policeman might stop a truck out on a lonely stretch of highway and decide supposedly by eyeballing a truck that it was overloaded and assess the fine and pocket it on the spot.

Who in their right mind would take their truck south of the border?

And working down on the border where my loads were transloaded into Mexican rigs, I got to see some of the wrecks they run up and down the highway. While not all USA trucks are up to par, many of the trucks the Mexicans use would not pass the same inspections USA trucks are given.

While they were running the pilot program allowing Mexican trucks in, I believe I saw some pretty questionable rigs running up and down our highways. I do not believe that these trucks were subjected to the same standards as USA trucks, probably due to political considerations.

Another problem is that while Canadian truckers speak English (and yes I know some of them speak French too), many of the Mexican truckers do not (they can’t even read our road signs).

(In the interests of fair play and full disclosure, I should note that some USA-licensed drivers, some of them from Eastern Europe, do not speak English. I actually watched one of these guys at a warehouse once and the freight receivers could not communicate with him. They had to make hand signals and lead him around and show him what to do with his paper work.)

And you have to understand that once you let an over-the-road truck over the border, it goes all over. It may deliver its original load into the country from Mexico at one place, but then haul other loads within the country between cities and only return to Mexico after hauling several loads.

If Mexico had actual law and order and was not corrupt, and if their truck safety standards and practices were better, it might well have a valid argument that its trucks should be allowed into our country and in turn we could also operate in Mexico.

It is unfortunate to have a dispute with Mexico because it is one of our top trading partners, but realities have to be accepted.

And back to the turmoil in Mexico. I don’t know why it has been downplayed. It threatens Mexico and it also threatens our own security.

Part of the problem is that the U.S. offers such a good market for the south-of-the-border drug cartels. Personal guns are illegal in Mexico, so guns from the U.S., to include high powered assault rifles and other powerful weapons, are basically traded from the north for the drugs from the south.

Combating the drug trade is a tough problem that we have not ever solved in the USA. I find calls to simply “legalize” illicit drugs to be dubious at best (and that was not some kind of marijuana pun – doobie is it?).

But meanwhile I don’t think we should tolerate cross border incursions, be they illegal aliens looking for work or engaged in the drug trade.

We need a military show of force at the border, as well as  a strong commitment of the various appropriate law enforcement agencies where needed to fight the drug cartels. And we should not let up on our enforcement of immigration laws at the workplace in the process.

We may well find that the biggest threat to our security is not in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan or the deserts and urban areas of Iraq but instead at our own southern doorstep.

In the long run we need to work hand in hand with the Calderon administration in Mexico, which from all reports is doing its best to fight both the drug cartels and to turn the tide on corruption that has existed so long in Mexico.

(Copyright 2009)