One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

Related Post Roulette

98 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    When i hit my wifes cats with a broom she never buys the ” I thought they were intruders” either. But on the bright side, they didn’t shoot him.


  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Well, sure it looks outrageous now. But we haven’t had time to go through his social media accounts to see if he ever “liked” a rap album or posed for a picture for his friends holding a doobie of giving someone the bird. Hell, in that picture the guys sitting down, and so we have no idea if his pants sag or not.

    So we really can’t say for certain how justified it was at this point.Report

  3. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Even us middle aged white guys realize NWA was right. Fuck the Police.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Some middle aged white guys realize NWA was right.

      I suspect others are saying Right On…Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      And that was a really punchy comment, not directed at you.

      I’m in a punchy mood today it seems…Report

    • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

      Some of y’all, Burt for example, probably read the local news story about the [Latino, Democratic] mayor of Santa Ana (county seat of Orange County, CA) cancelling a city council meeting because he found a citizen wearing a hat emblazoned with N.W.A.’s song title to be “offensive”.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Yup. It is rather bad.Report

  5. Avatar aaron david says:

    Well, I am going to agree with Greginack and say thank goodness that he wasn’t shot. It seems massively stupid that he was pepper sprayed, but I wasn’t there.

    Between this and Cornell West, we need to do something about our neighbors…Report

  6. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about, I just checked & a dose of chemical deterrent or electroshock therapy is the nominal sentence for misdemeanor contempt of cop.

    Good thing it wasn’t felony contempt of cop. You really don’t want to even accidentally touch one of our be-sainted Officers of the Law!Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      According to the police, he did touch them:

      The police officer continued to question Mr. Currie. Mr. Currie became very volatile, profane and threatened physical violence toward the police officer. In an effort to calm Mr. Currie, the police officer asked him several times to have a seat, which he refused. Mr. Currie became increasingly belligerent and profane and the police officer attempted to restrain Mr. Currie with handcuffs to insure the police officer’s and Mr. Currie’s safety. Mr. Currie then struck the police officer’s left arm knocking the handcuffs to the floor.

      The police officer then used pepper spray as a non-lethal and measured response to gain control of the situation. Medical personnel treated and released Mr. Currie at the scene within one (1) hour. No charges were filed.

      Assuming the police are telling the truth, this seems like a misunderstanding that escalated.

      If my (black) neighbor of 10+ years saw a black kid she didn’t recognize going in an unlocked side door at my house in the middle of the day, she’d probably call the cops too. (The Tylers moved in in July, so their neighbors don’t even know them THAT well).

      If, when the police showed up, that black kid produced a license with a different address on it, and the pictures on the mantle were of my three white kids, the police might be pretty skeptical of his claims that he lived there.

      Might he become angry at their skepticism?

      Yeah. I would too.

      But all things considered, pepper spray isn’t the worst possible outcome of this situation.

      NOW, with all that said –

      I was talking to a friend of mine at the bar the other night, who is much more conservative than I, a pretty law-and-order-type dude. And he was telling me how, post-Ferguson et al, he’s reached a point where he just… doesn’t…believe the police anymore.

      They might be telling the truth in any given situation; but so much damage to trust has been done all those times they got caught lying, he just assumes they are lying, whenever something like this (or worse) happens.

      And he was having the better-late-than-never epiphany that people with skin darker than his had been feeling that way for a long time; and he was really, visibly sort of shaken, about what it means when the cops have lost the trust of even those who are normally fairly inclined to cut them some slack.

      I mean, this is a pretty Republican-sympathetic guy in the past, who now believes all cops are just bullies and crooks and thugs and liars.

      I have no idea how widespread this feeling is amongst his set (I like to think I’ve occasionally been a good influence on him), but it struck me, for sure.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Assuming the police are telling the truth, this seems like a misunderstanding that escalated.

        “Dude, we’re just doin the best we can, like everyone else. Isn’t that all ya can ask of anyone?”Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        But to get back to the OP’s question, I don’t know if this particular instance was “outrageous”, without knowing more.

        At what point do we think things should have gone differently, assuming the PD’s statement is more or less factual? Where exactly did they go wrong, given the information they had at the time?


        *New family in the neighborhood (<4 mos.)
        *Family is somewhat uncommon (white parents, three white kids, one black kid)
        *Kid comes home from school early (neighbor presumably doesn't expect to see any kids at all)
        *Kid enters through unlocked side door, rather than front door, or using key
        *Cops get called on suspected burglary.

        Now, at this point, the misunderstanding has already begun, but I see the misunderstanding as potentially, er, understandable.

        Not only would my black neighbor probably call the cops if she saw a black kid entering my house via unlocked side door mid-day, I'd probably call the cops if I saw a white kid doing the same at her house.*

        (Of course, if we recognized the kid, that’d be different; but again, the Tylers have just recently moved in, so maybe nobody really knows anybody yet. Maybe all the neighbor is pretty sure of, is that it was a “white” family that moved in.)

        So, the cops show up and ask the kid for ID, but it doesn’t have this house’s address on it; and there’s a mantle with pictures of white kids, but not of this black kid. The plot thickens.

        What should they do next?

        1.) Accept his story at face value?

        2.) Arrest him immediately and haul him downtown?

        3.) Make him sit outside on the front curb until his mom gets home to validate his story?

        Somehow, I don’t think any of these options would be viewed as “non-outrageous”.

        In the first scenario that would be incompetent policing; in the second and third it would be seen as just as degrading/offensive, given that we know, as the police did not, that he in fact lived there.

        So, they go with

        4.) keep questioning him.

        Which has the potential for things getting heated.

        If I were the kid, I’d be pissed off too.

        Maybe pissed enough to start swearing, or swat a hand reaching for me, and then…well, I’d be lucky if pepper spray was the worst of my problems.

        *Of course, these hypos raise interesting problems: The white guy at her house could be a guest or family member, who gets the cops called on him unnecessarily. And now I’m the jerk.

        And the white guy she sees going into MY house, and DOESN’T call the cops on, because she assumes he’s my cousin or whatever, could be robbing me blind (“Why didn’t you call the cops?!” “I figured he was a friend of yours!”)

        The point is, we all use racial traits as part of our “Probably OK” and “That Looks Suspicious” heuristics, but without necessarily assigning significance to it beyond generally expecting to see like with like.

        That is, I (generally) expect to see Hispanic people at my Hispanic neighbor’s house, black people at my black neighbor’s house, and so on.

        There will of course be many exceptions, but they will either be standard exceptions (mailman, A/C repairman) or become known to me over time, via experience/observation and social contact (and neighborhood gossip, which, much as I hate to say it, does serve a function sometimes).

        A situation that breaks the expected pattern (especially if it breaks it in several ways, as it seems to have here, with not just the perception of racial mismatch but also time of day and point of entry – and nothing that happened after the cops got there easily resolved the pattern, like an ID with the home’s address, or a picture of the kid on the mantel) is going to cause antennae to go up.

        If a situation follows (or mostly follows) the expected pattern, not so much.

        Sometimes, that might cause trouble by causing us to be unnecessarily suspicious of someone; other times, we won’t be suspicious enough.

        In this case, the cops were maybe too suspicious and/or escalated too quickly; but I am not clear on what the alternatives were, assuming their account is more or less correct. It just seems like an unfortunate situation.

        But of course it’s easy for me to say that, from the comfort of my chair and with my eyes free of pepper spray.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Glyph, let me turn this around. What could he have said that would have had the cops leave?

        “Here is a piece of identification. It has this address on the identification.”

        It seems to me that the above would not have been sufficient. Given that I can’t think of *ANYTHING* that would have been, we’ve got a serious, serious problem here.

        But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we can come up with something that he could have said to have the cops say “Oh, jeez. We are soooooo sorry for the misunderstanding!”Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        JB, there is nothing he could have *said*, and that’s as we want it. Once the police get called, they are going to want more than my word that even though those aren’t pictures of me on the wall, this is still my house. Some sort of independent verification is going to be required, and that’s as it should be. A document, a second person vouching for me, something.

        Otherwise, every burglar caught in the act can just say “my house!” and what, cops go away?

        What makes you think producing a DL with the house’s address wouldn’t have worked? You think they would then accuse him of having the foresight to have gotten a fake ID for the house he was going to rob?

        I mean, I believe cops are frequently venal, incompetent and corrupt, and even I don’t think that.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Dude, we’ve already established that they looked at the pictures on the mantle and said “pull the other one”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Jaybird, the pictures cut against him, that’s the point. There were pictures of three white kids, and not him. Had there been a picture of him there as well, things would have gone differently.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “DeShawn said he became angry when officers pointed out the pictures of the Tyler’s three younger children on the mantle, assuming he didn’t belong there. ”

        I strongly suspect that if there had been a picture of DeShawn there as well, things would either have resolved peacefully, or we’d be hearing about it in the article (“despite a picture of DeShawn”).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I’m saying why an ID with the address wouldn’t have worked. The cops looked at the pictures and knew, in their hearts, that the kid didn’t belong there.

        He could have produced a deed.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:


        That is, I (generally) expect to see Hispanic people at my Hispanic neighbor’s house, black people at my black neighbor’s house, and so on.

        There will of course be many exceptions, but they will either be standard exceptions (mailman, A/C repairman) or become known to me over time, via experience/observation and social contact (and neighborhood gossip, which, much as I hate to say it, does serve a function sometimes).

        You do realize this is pretty racist, right? People don’t magically decide to be friends only with people of their own race, and it’s not some symptom of universal bigotry. It’s because people’s social circles are mostly made up of people of the same race as themselves.

        But here’s the thing: Your neighborhood is a pretty fucking good proxy for your social circle.

        If your Black neighbor lived in an overwhelmingly Black neighborhood, it would be a little bit unusual for her to have white visitors. But she doesn’t live in that neighborhood. Instead, she lives in a neighborhood with you and that aforementioned Hispanic neighbor. It’d be weird if her guests didn’t reflect the multi-ethnic nature of your little community.

        I mean, I think about how back when I had and Asian roommate and lived in an apartment complex near the college, with mostly white but also several Asian neighbors. When I had friends over, they were mostly white and occasionally Asian. When my roommate had friends over, they were mostly white and occasionally Asian.Report

      • Alan,

        I can’t speak for Glyph, but the sense I get from his comments is that he does realize it’s racist, or at least implicated in racism. I think that’s part of his point. Again, though, I can’t speak for him.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Glyph et al,
        it seems like the proper solution should be “Can you give me your mom’s phone number?”
        There should be proper procedure to vouch for someone. I’ve driven someone else’s car before… there should be a proper procedure to verify it wasn’t stolen.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @alan-scott @gabriel-conroy – I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve lived in this neighborhood, with the same neighbors, for ten plus years, and I can state with 100% confidence that the old Hispanic lady across the street is generally visited by her Hispanic family members and friends, and my black neighbor is generally visited by her black family members and friends, and I am generally visited by my white family members and friends.

        Those patterns are to some degree a *result* of historical (and maybe current) racism; but they are *also* each person’s observed regular social circles.

        In all cases, there are exceptions to their regular social circles, but those exceptions are generally known to me. Someone breaking that pattern will likely be noticed by me. If that’s coupled with other things that seem ‘off’ (time of day they are visiting, point of entry to the property), I’m going to wonder what’s up. So will they if they observe the same at my house.

        The Tylers sound like they moved into a neighborhood less diverse than mine, with a family setup that ‘confuses’ people’s categories (categories probably even more rigidly defined than they are in my neighborhood). The Tylers are new to the neighborhood, so it’s possible that neighbors’ mental categories had not yet been redefined and exceptions noted. So things that “stick out” will in fact be noted. As obsessive pattern-seekers, it’s what humans do (and, attempted pattern-matching plays its part in the same flawed heuristics that lead to racism).

        Don’t conflate “racist” (in the sense of assigning essential characteristics to someone based on their race) with simple observation of known fact – that people tend, for many reasons, of which racism is in fact a big one (maybe the biggest), to associate with people ‘like’ themselves.

        But it’s not race only, that’s just one possible marker (albeit a big one, due to, you know, reality in this world). If it’s a commune of white hippies living next to me and I see a white mohawked guy with safety-pinned motorcyle jacket coming in the side door at an odd hour, I’m gonna wonder what he’s doing there too.

        @jaybird – look, man, I am only slightly behind you in the “Don’t Trust The Police” race, but you still have not answered my initial question.

        At what point, given the information they were given, should they have let the matter drop?Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Further confusing things, for whatever reason, the parents had left the door unlocked, rather than give the kid a key to the house (maybe he had forgotten the key and phoned his parents to let them know – I didn’t see that detail in the article) – so he couldn’t even demonstrate that he had a house key on his keyring.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        They might be telling the truth in any given situation; but so much damage to trust has been done all those times they got caught lying, he just assumes they are lying, whenever something like this (or worse) happens.

        That’s how I feel, too. Far too much damage has been done by assuming that police accounts regarding situations where they arrested, assaulted, or killed innocent people are true.

        There’s been enough cases where the police claimed one thing, and video or audio evidence showed it to be blatantly false, for me to just believe their accounts without supporting evidence.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      & a dose of chemical deterrent or electroshock therapy is the nominal sentence for misdemeanor contempt of cop.

      Man, if that’s the case I better be on my toes since they have persistent, intractable cause to break down my door, shoot my dogs and pepper spray/taze me as a matter of course anymore.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      If my neighbors call the cops because they saw someone entering my house, I don’t want the cops to think that gives them permission to go into my house. If they see the guy back out carrying my TV, they can bust him when he reaches my sidewalk. But unless they hear gunshots, screams, etc, they have no business entering my dwelling.

      Maybe I need to put a big sign in my front yard announcing my house as a 4th Amendment Enforcement Zone.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I’m not sure of the law, but I am pretty sure they can enter your house if they have reasonable cause to believe a crime may be in progress (which I assume the initial 911 call and the unlocked door would satisfy).

        I originally thought the same, that they should have waited outside or called the guy outside; but while that might save the 4th, I don’t think it would have prevented him from getting pepper-sprayed on his own property, which is the part that is outraging people. Pepper spray works just as well on the porch.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Fuquay Varina indeedReport

  8. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    It’s outrageous, but I still think police officers should be able to collectively bargain their pay and pensions and we’d have a safer country in general if less people had guns.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I think that if we, as a society, trusted government institutions more, we’d be able to look at situations like this one and talk about what police deserve instead of what citizens do.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    You know, I was reading an essay earlier today about people of pallor adopting people of color and whether or not that was a good idea.

    The fact that the police might come into your house and spray your adopted child with pepper spray was not given as a reason against adoption across races, but now I see that it should have been.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:


    (DOWN HERE!)

    I can’t help but read your quasi-defense of what transpired as saying, “It is okay to treat families — and by extension, individual members of those families — differently if they don’t conform to our expectations for what they ought to look like.” I know you’re not trying to say that, but I think that is an inevitable conclusion of the logic you are applying.

    “Hey, man, things just didn’t look right.”

    Well, what does the ‘right’ kind of family look like?

    Would you support our own Russell Saunders and his husband being given extra scrutiny if they tried to leave the country with their adoptive children? Because, well, from the pictures I’ve seen, their family looks rather ‘different’ as well. And if you wouldn’t support that, why would you support the neighbor and/or cops scrutinizing this man to a greater degree as well?

    The presumption of evidence is a foundational value of our society. And while the neighbor isn’t legally obligated to offer that presumption, the cops are. The young man in this situation committed no crime. The cops had no evidence of a crime being committed. The found a brown boy in a house filled with pictures of white people. That is all. That ought not be enough to attempt to detain that young man and to pepper spray him when he objects.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Kazzy, I get what you are saying, but what’s the alternative? Leave the boy in the house? Make him leave? Remember, he was neither arrested nor charged. According to the police, they were questioning him and he got angry (again, I repeat, COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLY).

      They have a report of a possible burglary, and upon arriving, find someone there who cannot produce an ID showing he lives there, and doesn’t look like the pictures on the wall. Take race out of it and the same issues hold.

      What next? Everyone keeps saying this ought not to have happened (and maybe it oughtn’t) but they are not saying what the alternative is.

      If we believe that we do need police, and one of their jobs is to respond to burglary reports, then this sort of thing is going to happen sometimes.

      To white people too.

      I will reiterate again, thank God it was only pepper spray.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Also, I hate to do this since several people are engaged, but I gotta get to work. In closing, I will simply say that while it is comforting to believe that there is a correct procedure that will always produce the correct outcome, it is entirely possible to have multiple people follow best/common practices and act best on what they know at the time, and still have those actions collide to produce a FUBAR outcome.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Here is what I’d recommend. The police take down the boy’s information, leave the house and stay outside while attempting to contact the homeowners. If they can verify the boy’s story, done and done. If they can’t be contacted, the police can either continue to canvas the area OR leave and, in the event a crime takes place… well, they’ve got his info. If they are contacted and do not verify his story, they go in and arrest him.

        I’m not a lawyer, but at the time the police arrive the most the boy was guilty of was trespassing. Trespassing, as I understand it, requires a complaint. No complaint was filed (the neighbor I do not believe has authority to file a complaint on the homeowner’s behalf).

        If the cops came in and found the place ransacked, you’d move towards then having reason to be suspicious. What was the kid doing when they arrived? Did he open the door for them? Was he watching TV? That should go a long way towards establishing how reasonable their suspicion was. Because to that point, the suspicion was grounded SOLELY in “brown person where someone(s) didn’t think a brown person should be”. And it matters not if one of those someones was him/herself a brown person.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Kazzy, that sounds pretty good on its face, but I’m not sure that most homeowners would accept that. Just ‘take his info’? Well, assuming he IS a burglar, he’s just going to give fake info, knowing full well that since he just said the magic words “I live here”, they can’t do anything to him right now.

        Take race out of this and leave everything else the same. New neighborhood, white foster kid, home early, side door, 911, cops, no ID or matching pictures on the mantel.

        Now what?

        Leave him in the house, and deal with any arising problems later?

        The first person whose house then gets burgled (or, gets assaulted by the intruder in their house when they get home) will probably have a real problem with that.

        “You LEFT him in my HOUSE?!” “Well, we had another call to get to.”

        But hey, maybe the person left in the house won’t even do anything much at that time, you know…just leave a window unlocked, or take a garage door opener for later, or pocket a bank statement.

        You keep arguing based on what *we* know, not what *they* knew. To them, it was possible the young man was lying. So what do they do?

        You’d want the police to just accept at face value any story told to them by some (to the best of their knowledge at that time) random person they found in *your* house, and walk away?

        You’d be OK with that when you got home?

        Hey, they TRIED to call you; what else could they do?

        He said he lived there.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        My license says I live in Yonkers, approximately 45 miles from the home that I own and live in. There is a sticker on the back with my new address that is technically official but I had wrote in the address and while getting a traffic ticket recently, the cop ignored that and put my Yonkers address down.

        The young man became agitated. Understandably so. The cops at that point could have escalated or de-escalated the situation. It seems they chose the former. I can think of a myriad ways of de-escalating it that would still have ensured the crime would have been prevented.

        They include:
        1.) Asking him to call his parents.
        2.) Asking him for parents contact info and stepping outside to call them.
        3.) Respecting that possibility that he was not lying and that agitation in such a situation is a legitimate response and allow him to agitate safely without threat of arrest.
        4.) Call his school.
        5.) Ask him to show them his bedroom and some personal items (if he knows his yellow socks are balled up in the top right drawer, that’s a good sign he is telling the truth).
        6.) Ask him the address of the house.
        7.) Ask him how he walks home.
        8.) Don’t pepper spray him.

        Also, when I said, “Ask his info,” I meant verifiable info. It seems he had an ID but with a different address. This avoids the risk of him just lying about it.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @kazzy – Knowing cops (knowing people!) I have no doubt they probably missed multiple opportunities to de-escalate.

        However, I do assume that some attempt was made to contact at least the parents/homeowners (I would *hope* that’s SOP in such a situation). Not sure if they’d gotten around to calling the school yet.

        Asking him for his address is something, but probably not enough – that’s a quick-and-dirty fake ID check for bouncers, but not foolproof – my friend once bobbled the answer, because he’d moved recently several times. He was denied entry to the bar (he looked young). Same might have happened to this kid, as a recent (and now-nervous) arrival to the neighborhood.

        On the flipside, a burglar worth his salt may have cased in advance and learned the address – that knowledge would be a good temporary shield against casual questioning. (“Oh, hi, neighbor, I’m just here to check the water meter over at 2747”.)

        The other stuff, contents of drawers and the like, is certainly a pretty good indication he lives there (though if he can only point out the drawer where the silverware is, or the painting the safe is behind, maybe not so much). We of course don’t know if he was asked this, or what his response was.

        The problem remains, as police run through these various lines of questioning, an innocent person is going to be getting more and more agitated (particularly if he is being thwarted by bad luck, like no pictures of him handy, and his ID not having the address he needs).

        The more agitated he gets, the more likely things go south.

        Again, *assuming police are telling the truth* (a proposition of which I am dubious of in general) the pepper spray was used after he struck the officer’s left arm (who, to be fair, was going to cuff him because he supposedly thought the young man was getting too agitated).

        All things considered, I’d prefer to be “subdued” by pepper spray than by baton, fists, taser, or gun.

        Don’t get me wrong, this is a s****y situation. If I were this young man or his family I’d be furious.

        But it also seems to me like the sort of misunderstanding that is probably unavoidable sometimes, in the aggregate (if not in a particular situation).Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        @james-hanley 100% with you on the self selection issuse. Every cop I’ve known personally has been the type of person we DO NOT WANT as cops.

        My position here is not trusting the cops, because i don’t, but trusting my neighbors. I don’t know many of them well, or really any of them save one whos son is the same age as mine, but I’m willing to defer to their instinct on this one, because I think their instincts will be right more often then they’ll be wrong and I’m not concerned enough about a epidemic of my guests being wrongly accused as being intruders.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Take race out of this and leave everything else the same. New neighborhood, white foster kid, home early, side door, 911, cops, no ID or matching pictures on the mantel.

        Now what?

        Now what? I expect “Now what?” is that nothing happens because the neighbours see a kid come home, make the reasonable assumption that he lives there, and don’t call the cops.

        That’s why I don’t think you can take race out of this.Report

      • Avatar gingergene says:

        I agree with you that some of the actions the police took seem reasonable, but my view of the daily reports of police assaulting and sometimes killing unarmed people is that we have far, far too many police officers who have no ability to de-escalate the situations they find themselves in. Whether that’s because of the training they receive or the temperments of the officers (I suspect a combination of the two), it is becoming clear to more and more people that our police force is not up to the task before them and a certain portion of the population (black men, especially young black men) are bearing the brunt of the inadequacy.

        Personally, I am less interested in individual cases and more in the big picture:

        1) Police appear to be trained in the wrong sorts of techniques. My observation is that their own self-preservation seems to be top priority. This is a totally human characteristic, but needs to be channelled in particular ways when one has a state-granted monopoly on force, which leads me to…

        2) We don’t seem to have done a good job of filtering out people who don’t have the temperment/skills to be police officers. It’s not for everyone. I have no doubt that the pay scale is a factor here.

        3) We seem to have a *terrible* system for removing officers from the force who shouldn’t be there. “Blue Wall of Silence” and all that. Police departments need to stop protecting bad officers.

        All but the last one point to solutions that are probably going to cost money, and that’s where the rubber will hit the road- will the public pony up to pay for an improved police force? (Maybe the budgets for all that surplus military equipment could be spent on better training?)Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @katherinemw – I linked a couple instances of similar situations happening to white people below.

        False alarms gonna happen sometimes, race be damned.

        The question was, what to do about it once the alarm is raised, so that hopefully no one ends up getting pepper-sprayed (or worse)?Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        @gingergene – a couple of thoughts on your points

        <i1) Police appear to be trained in the wrong sorts of techniques. My observation is that their own self-preservation seems to be top priority. This is a totally human characteristic (…)

        Whatever their motivations, the techniques they use are counterproductive to that goal – escalating a hundred encounters to the point of violence is probably going to result in 99 more killed or injured civilians than there would otherwise have been, but also to 1 more killed or injured cop. Everyone is made safer by de-escalation, including police.

        But, if you spend months of training time practicing violence, and one afternoon sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture about de-escalation, with an hour set aside for practice, guess which well-drilled techniques will come out when things get tense…

        Maybe the budgets for all that surplus military equipment could be spent on better training?

        I had the distinct impression the military equipment transfers were essentially gifts of white elephants – there is no budget associated with them, because the military is basically giving the stuff away rather than send it to the scrap yard. Maybe I’m wrong there though. The way to stem the flow with budgeting would be to cut the military’s equipment budget, so they don’t have a bunch of old gear being made surplus by the new stuff coming in.Report

    • Avatar switters says:

      This is an interesting discussion. And I’m torn, although I think i’m with Glyph on this one (assuming that is, that the cops story is true, which, like many of the rest of you, is an assumption i am no longer willing to make as a matter of course). Not that what happened is not horrible. It is.

      But I’m not sure which discreet action, of either the neighbor, or the police, is being challenged as necessarily wrong. It would help if you could point this out. Because while i can see the problem with the neighbor making the call in the first place, and I can see that cops detaining a kid in his own home is problematic, I can also see how either’s decision to refrain from doing those things could just as easily, if not more easily, be called into doubt.

      Glyph already mentioned it, but using your extend the logic trick, doesn’t your logic lead to the inevitable conclusion that either (i) people should not call the cops to report an intruder unless they are 100% sure it is in fact an intruder and (ii) if the cops are called to the scene of a crime, the intruder’s claim that he lives there should be enough to satisfy the police and the cops should leave.

      And why in the hell did this kid not have a key to his house? I understand adopting a near adult is a dicey proposition, and kudos to them for doing it, but shouldn’t an 18 year old have a key?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        As I say above, what evidence was there of a crime? Were his pockets full of jewelry? Was the house in shambles? Did he open the door for the police? If he was sitting on the couch drinking a juice pack, wouldn’t that lend credence to his story?

        I’ve also outlined above what I think the alternative course of action should be. I’m not so troubled by the neighbor’s involvement as I am by the police’s. Upon arrival, they had one person saying the boy didn’t belong there (a neighbor who didn’t know the family), one person saying the boy did belong there (the boy himself), circumstantial evidence that he did not (the pictures), and presumably circumstantial evidence that he did (no actual robbery taking place). Given all that, I think I’ve offered a fair recommendation that minimizes the likelihood of bad things happening.

        Last, this was at most a property crime. We should take all steps possible to avoid doing bodily harm to people to prevent property crime. The cops could have sat outside the house until the home owners came out and been just as effective at preventing the house from being robbed and no one would have needed medical attention. Isn’t that preferable?Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        @kazzy – Like Glyph, I’m not persuaded. Imagine someone breaks into your house. Cops come. Intruder says he lives there, so cops let him stay inside while they go outside to confirm story. In the hour it takes to get you and your wife to either confirm or deny that the intruder is in fact an intruder, you’d be fine, if it was an intruder, with the cops leaving that person in your house, unattended for an hour, probably setting up a perimeter to make sure he doesn’t sneak away, which requires more man and fire power, and puts other neighbors at risk in the event he does try, and reduces their ability to respond to other emergencies?

        I’d rather ask the the potential intruder to suffer the indignity of realizing the cops have been put in a tough spot. All this assumes the cops we’re not pricks. Which i know, is not necessarily a safe assummptionReport

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        As I say above, it seems they made some prickish choices that escalated rather than de-escalated the situation. Which seems par for the course for cops nowadays, especially when dealing with people of color.

        I don’t mind the cops being called. I don’t mind them showing up. I don’t mind them attempting to confirm the details of his story. I mind that they seem to have such little regard for the person they are dealing with that they fail to realize a perfectly normal reaction on his part and seem unable to investigate the situation beyond looking at pictures on the mantle.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        My problem is not with police skepticism. Hey, I understand it. My problem is that it seems to me that there wasn’t anything the kid could have done to alleviate the skepticism.

        And that’s without getting into the whole “pepper spray” thing.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I concur with @james hanley above. I don’t want the police entering my home when I’m not there unless they have a good reason to believe that there is a crime in progress. What @switters and @jaybird seem to be saying is that someone seeing an unknown black men entering a house owned by whites is a good reason to believe that there is a crime in progress. I don’t buy it.

        There are a thousand reasons why someone who is not me or the same ethnicity as me, might be entering my home. They could be house sitting or watering my plants. They could be a cleaning person or a plumber. They could be a friend who is borrowing something with my permission.

        If this guy was seen breaking in or climbing in a window, OK, that is suspicious. There is nothing about what this guy was doing, however, other than being a black dude in some white people’s house, that was actually suspicious. Unless, of course, your argument is that being a black dude in some white people’s house is, in itself, suspicious.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        What? I thought I was one of the crazy people who was saying “eff the police”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @jr – I think you mean me, not Jaybird.

        “Suspicious” is (ideally) a constellation of factors. Race can be one factor of many (though, as I have tried to stress repeatedly, not in an essentialist “black people burgle” sense, but in a “*that* guy doesn’t look like the *other* guys that I normally see here” sense).

        Other factors may be time of day, or point of entry.

        Taken together, all factors may generate suspicion.

        Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly.

        A boy may have a perfectly valid reason to be in the all-girls’ dorm, but I guarantee that will not be the initial presumption.

        In this case, you have a young black man of school age, entering a side door during school hours, using no key.

        A hypothetical neighbor whose only knowledge of the situation is a vague recollection of seeing a white mom unloading groceries the other day, may wonder if something is amiss.

        She can call the police, and risk the situation that happened here; or not call the police, and risk living with the fact that she could have stopped a crime, but did not.

        Probably, she’s going to call the police and let them sort it out. They’re professionals, right?

        BUT – when the police arrive and the young man states he is a child living there – and yet he is not one of the three white children whose pictures are on the mantel, nor can he produce an ID with that address on it – they are going to be skeptical.

        Would that it were else, but it’s not, and probably never will be.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Thinking about this some more, and thinking about how much worse this situation could have turned out, maybe the only real answer here is “never, ever call the cops, unless you are 100% sure a crime has been or is being committed.”

        Don’t ever say, “hey, something here doesn’t look/sound/feel quite right to me, maybe I should ask the cops to check that out.”

        Especially since I’m starting to feel cops are potentially as dangerous as any possible burglar.

        I guess my main worry is, that way potentially lies Kitty Genovese.

        False positives have a cost, but so do false negatives.

        I’m not so libertarianish as to not believe in neighbors, in community.

        If I stop paying any attention, at all, to who goes into my neighbor’s house, and when, and why, and then something bad happens to my neighbor; have I been a good neighbor to them, or not?

        Do you ask your neighbors to look after your house when you are gone, pick up your mail and the like?

        What happens when they see someone else entering your house by a side door sans key?

        Should they call the cops?

        Or assume that’s probably just your brother Bill who you said could borrow your sander, and you must have forgotten to mention that to them?

        These questions are complicated, even before you bring race and differing cultural expectations into them.

        Personally, I want my neighbors to be mildly suspicious.

        Not too much. That’d be nosy.

        But enough. That’s looking out for each other.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        it is always worthwhile to explore options other than calling the police. Particularly in places where the police are not exactly nice to everyone equally.
        If you see someone breaking into a house (through a window, say), what do you do?

        If you’ve got sufficient cover, make some noise. Maybe loudly call 911. Chances are you’ve got a burglar, and you can scare him off before anything bad happens.

        Then the cops show up, you give your statement (no, I didn’t really see him well….), and nobody’s harmed. The cops put your statement into “unsolved crimes” and get on with their day.

        If the person isn’t a burglar, you might get shot at — or they might abort. Or you might just have a civvie who knows how to jimmy a window. In which case, you’ll probably get a “Hey neighbor! You won’t guess where my keys are!”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        you’d be fine, if it was an intruder, with the cops leaving that person in your house, unattended for an hour, probably setting up a perimeter to make sure he doesn’t sneak away, which requires more man and fire power, and puts other neighbors at risk in the event he does try, and reduces their ability to respond to other emergencies?

        Well, if you paint the scenario that way….but you make it sound like you need a huge team to do this. Here’s what I’m envisioning.

        1. Police knock on the door, and ask appropriate questions.
        2. If the police remain suspicious, but have no actual evidence of an actual crime, they say they’re going to remain outside while they try to get in contact with the homeowners.
        3. Part of trying to get in contact with the homeowners is asking the person inside if he has phone numbers to contact them, and if he doesn’t, asking where they work. The more information he can give, the less suspicious he is (although acquaintances sometimes burgle, too).
        4. If the guy’s a burglar, he’s going to be freaked out that the cops are waiting outside the house until they get more information, and he’s going to try to sneak out. Hooray! That’s what you want him to do. He’s now outside the house, he’s demonstrated greater evidence of being up to no good, and the cops can grab him.
        5. How long is the guy likely to remain? Probably not long, unless he totally freezes. Fine, then, wait him out and there’s less chance of someone getting hurt.
        6. How many police does this take? About 2. More would be better, 2 is sufficient.
        7. What about other emergencies? 90% of a cop’s time there is nothing going down. This is why some places don’t want really smart people as cops–they know they’re likely to be bored. Odds are slim. If it happens, you do triage. But with 90% of a cop’s time having little occurring, odds are you can get someone else to cover the other situation. Anyway, how much extra police time was wasted because they had to deal with having pepper sprayed someone who hadn’t committed a cime?
        8. If a would-be robber sits in my house for an hour until I come home and identify him as not-allowed-here, he’s not likely to do much harm because he knows the cops are out there. If he grabs a can of soda and a bag of chips and sits on the couch waching pay-per-view porn until I come home, that’s not a real bad outcome.

        In all this, we have to balance our need to catch bad guys with our need to not harm innocent people. While I don’t at all think you are intentionally looking for reasons to excuse police abuse, many other people are, and unfortunately your line of argument fits comfortably with their excuse making.

        I’ve heard over and over that we can’t handcuff the police, but I’ve never heard an explanation for that which seems to respect civil liberties at all.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        Again, I get this was a shitty situation. And if it were me, I’d be furious. And it be nice to insist that the cops couldn’t enter my home simply because a neighbor called the cops and said they saw someone strange entering. And then i remember i’ve got kids at home. And a wife. And the idea that if my neighbors called the cops because someone they’ve never seen before enters my house without a key using the side entrance the cops still can’t go in, whether to discern whether or not there had been a crime, to confirm my wife and/or kids are safe seems, well, asinine. I mean, almost every B&E that’s ever occurred or every home invasion starts fits that description. What if the owners were home and tied up downstairs. I get there is small chance of this type of thing happening (owner of house detained), especially in light of the fact that it just did. But the number of emergencies we’d have to ignore, if even temporarily, to keep this from happening what, once, twice, is a price too high for me.

        To me this issue is a little like the rape issue, in that the most salient factors are what actually transpired when the officers and the alleged perp/victim interacted, as opposed to what happened after or before (which shouldn’t be relevant, but when they are the only pieces of evidence capable or verification or corroboration, they are given an undue, and unfortunate, weight). So the issue to me is not that the cops were allowed in, and not that the neighbor called the police, but how the cops handled the situation. And absent a video camera, we’ll never know who actually escalated. Even though, like most around here, I wouldn’t give much weight to the officers account of the facts. But assuming they were true, I’m not sure what else could have been done. And also, COP CAMERAS!!Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        A properly designed steel door on the second floor of your house will stop most thieves (because you’ve got plenty of valuables on the ground floor). It’ll make most rapists et alia think twice too (there’s always an easier mark).

        We don’t need to make it easy on them.

        I honestly doubt that there are a lot of “my neighbor saw a break-in…” that turn out to be “real”, as well. Most catburglars are professionals. (now, breaking into a car is a different story — that’s far more of a smash and grab, which takes less willpower or training).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @switters And also, COP CAMERAS!!

        So let it be written, so let it be done, Amen.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I get there is small chance of this type of thing happening (owner of house detained), especially in light of the fact that it just did. But the number of emergencies we’d have to ignore, if even temporarily, to keep this from happening what, once, twice, is a price too high for me.

        This is an interesting statement, because, in fact, you are not the one paying the price. The people paying the price always just tend to come from a certain demographic, but hey… as long as you feel safer.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        James – I was writing my previous response as you were drafting yours, so let me offer a more direct reply, as you raise some good points.

        1 – I can get on board with this. But, what if he doesn’t answer, as a home owner is completely within his rights to do. What if he answers and says get the fish off my property?
        2- How do you know if kids are inside or not. If the cop doesn’t know, are you ok with him assuming no. Or again, if the parents are inside. This could lead to rash action on the part of the perp. Understand this is unlikely, but so is the circumstance we are trying to prevent here.
        1-2 Can the cops insist that the person answer the questions with the front door open (i.e., detain him at the front door?) If so, I don’t think your approach alters the end result here. Is the door answerer’s failure to reply evidence of his guilt? If so, that sucks? Can the cops stay on the property, or do they need to retreat to the nearest public land?
        3 – What if the home owners are unreachable. For my job, I am regularly required to leave my cell phone where I have no access to it. I go camping in remote areas quite frequently. Assume i am a single father.

        4 – The burglar leaving is good. So is detaining him when you have the opportunity. Large private residences, dense urban areas with buildings with multiple points of ingress/egress and lost of potential collateral damage complicate this and make leaving him alone and catching him later more risky. The longer he stays, the more likely he is to take rash action, which could be a hell of lot worse than eating a dose of pepper spray. Admittedly for everyone but the alleged perp who actually lives in the house he is purportedly breaking into.
        6 – I don’t think two cops would be sufficient in most circumstances. In particular with the circumstances identified above.
        7 – that’s a good point.
        8 – If your wife or kids are, or may be home, and your unreachable, for 5 minutes, an hour, a day, you still ok with this?

        I am as skeptical of cops, and DA’s, and judges, and the whole fishing system, as nearly anyone. I think in general the number of bad cops is way higher than most people think. And I’m fine assuming this cop was a bad cop and a dick, because i think the majority are or would be in the right situation, but not because he went in on the neighbors call, but because he couldn’t effectively deescalate the situation. To me, that is the big issue here. Not going in the house. And not a neighbor calling the police when someone strange, and this is one place I will give some latitude to people’s instincts, is seen entering a home. If this becomes a more common problem, maybe I’ll change my mind.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        it be nice to insist that the cops couldn’t enter my home simply because a neighbor called the cops and said they saw someone strange entering. And then i remember i’ve got kids at home. And a wife.

        If that’s the case, they ought to be able to clear things up. If a little kid in the background screams for help, we’re in a different scenario with different rules.

        And the idea that if my neighbors called the cops because someone they’ve never seen before enters my house without a key using the side entrance the cops still can’t go in, whether to discern whether or not there had been a crime, to confirm my wife and/or kids are safe seems, well, asinine.

        No, I disagree. I’m not saying they can’t knock on the door and ask questions. I’m saying my house is private property, and except when there’s a very strong reason to suspect some person may be in physical danger, we haven’t yet crossed the threshold where the police can treat it as public enough for them to access it without my permission.

        What if the owners were home and tied up downstairs.

        If we start playing the “what if” game there is no end, we just start spinning scenarios that each become progressively less likely. There’s no evidence in the news story that the police even searched the house for tied up people, so this is not even an explanation but a post hoc justification.

        But the number of emergencies we’d have to ignore, if even temporarily, to keep this from happening what, once, twice, is a price too high for me.

        How can we know if it’s too high when you’ve given no evidence for how many emergencies we’d have to ignore? That’s a big assumption, and I’m not buying it without a warranty.

        And to my mind, preventing one or two innocents from being pepper sprayed, tazed, or beaten is worth a cargo ship load of stolen property. My tv and tools and my wife’s jewelry are more easily replaced than the self-confidence and emotional security of my child.

        William Blackstone said, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” I’ll take my stand on that.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        @j-r – No need to be a dick. Yes, any position we hold is likely to negatively affect someone else in someway when competing interests are involved. Sure. But what do you know about me? My race? My history with the criminal justice system? My interactions with the police? My sexuality? Whether or not i’ve suffered at the hands of those with too much authority? Please enlighten me about… me!

        Are you a cop? Because you feel fine advocating policies that would make them less safe (at least in their opinion) (and so do i for the record).

        Do you advocate for any laws? Even ones that may have resulted in a false conviction? Murder has been used to falsely imprison one person before. Anyone who advocates to keep murder laws on the books is just being selfish, unless they themselves have been the victim of wrongful imprisonment.

        I generally enjoy your comments. That one not so much.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        because he couldn’t effectively deescalate the situation. To me, that is the big issue here.

        I’m with you on this. Better training at deescalation would help. But I also think there’s a significant element of self-selection that produces a larger number of natural assholes among police than in most professions, and I think that training would help only at the margin, that it won’t touch the essential problem. Which is why I want auxiliary protections, like making my property off-limits unless there is actual evidence–not just abstract possibilities–of someone being in physical danger.

        What might work best is an overall reorganization of what policing in America is all about. I’m not going to hold my breath, though.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        James writes: “No, I disagree. I’m not saying they can’t knock on the door and ask questions. I’m saying my house is private property, and except when there’s a very strong reason to suspect some person may be in physical danger, we haven’t yet crossed the threshold where the police can treat it as public enough for them to access it without my permission.”

        You are advocating changing the rules (or insisting the original rules apply as intended), correct? So lets assume yours is the new rule, or the true application of the original.

        Scenario: My neighbor calls the cops to report a break in because she sees a strange person she’s never seen before entering my house through the side door without a key. I know my wife and child are at home. The cops knock. Someone either refuses to answer or opens the doors and says get the fish off my property pig.

        Application of your rule: There has been no new evidence other than the call. Certainly doesn’t cross the threshold where police can treat it as public. Police are forbidden from doing anything other than waiting outside until my permission is obtained. If I have misapplied your rule, please let me know how.

        If that’s the case, than let’s just agree to disagree. But let’s dispense with the idea that my position constitutes some pro-police bullshit or some huge and unusual infringement on liberty.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @jr The people paying the price always just tend to come from a certain demographic

        You mean ‘Air Force captains’?

        Or ‘white kids just chillin’, watchin’ TV on their one night off’?:

        But I take your general point. If I Google “man detained in his own house as burglar” many if not most of the first couple pages of hits have black faces (though, I wouldn’t discount cases with a racial angle getting more media coverage and clicks than regular old everyday police screwups).

        That said, I think the racial angle is only a part of the picture. Though it undoubtedly played/often plays a part, the underlying issue (burglary false alarm, and then trouble ascertaining homeowner identity) is obviously something that can and will happen (though racism will exacerbate the problem).

        Zooming out even farther than ‘false burglary alarm’, it’s evident to me that police have a real problem with force escalation/de-escalation in many situations (as my friend who was beaten by a cop for looking for his lost keys after a concert will attest).

        Extensive re-training, and perhaps mandatory yoga/meditation/breathing exercises, would seem to be in order for America’s cops.

        And also, cameras.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Bad guy knows the cops are outside–what’s his advantage then of harming his victims?

        But if the cops hear screams, they can go in.

        And I didn’t say you were pro-cop. I tried to be explicit about that, and if I wasn’t clear, my bad. I said focusing on justifications for the police’s action works in favor of those who are pro-cop. Not that we shouldn’t look at both sides and try to figure out if the police were justified, but I’m leaning more toward the side of trying to figure out how we stop these things from happening as they become ever more frequent.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        “And I didn’t say you were pro-cop.” My bad. Imprecise reading on my part. Thanks for clearing it up.

        To the substance of your reply – the guy who broke into my house has proved himself incapable of acting rationally. Particularly the guy who broke in to do my wife or kids harm. Bottom line is, I want the cops coming in in that situation. And I expect anyone whose there with my permission to understand that.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @switters and @glyph

        I used the term “certain demographic” and not simply as a code word for “black.” For instance, had the boy in question been a black or hispanic woman the neighbors might have taken here for a cleaning lady. The point is that people are notoriously bad at judging the actions and intentions of people who don’t look like them.

        When you say that we have to er on the side of having the police actively investigate and confront anyone who is “suspicious” you are invariably increasing the levels of police interaction with the demographic that people tend to view suspiciously. That’s just the plain truth of it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        When I break into people’s houses and the cops ask me “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”, I always answer “tech support”.

        We all laugh and I hope to get my thirtieth television this upcoming weekend.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Glad to clear that up. I don’t think you’re on the wrong side, I just want you to come a little farther onto my side. 😉

        For myself, I showed my daughters the following video today, and told them “if there’s an emergency or you’re the victim of a crime, call the police; otherwise, stay as far away from them as possible.” That includes keeping them out of our house if possible.

        I have a friend–white, middle class–who was beaten by the police on his front porch because he refused to explain why he was outside his own house (he was sitting in his car listening to the end of a story on NPR). Nobody called the police, a police just drove by and thought he looked suspicious. When the police finally threw him down and damaged his shoulder, they pulled out his wallet, looked at the address, read it out loud, and he said, “look at the house number,” and then they realized he was telling the truth about living there.

        The cop who started the whole thing apparently held a grudge because my friend complained, and a couple months ago when the asshole down the street (he called my friend a n****r-lover) called the police because my friend’s cat was on his property, that same cop responded to the call and came charging down the driveway with his gun out yelling “police business, put your hands up!” My friend ducked inside the house and refused to come out or let them in, and when a supervisor came, made him conduct the whole business through a window he opened about an inch.

        Fortunately for him he’s white, or it might have gone more like this.


      • Avatar switters says:

        @james-hanley – That’s a brutal video. And all too common I agree. And I’ll tell my kids the same thing about the police.

        The more I thought about your anecdote, the more it became clear to me that the most important factor to me was the that the neighbor called. If the cops would have become suspicious on their own, after witnessing the exact same thing, during a drive by say, and gone in, I would have been much more upset at the way it went down.

        So while I admit the possibility of asshole neighbors (as your story evidences), I consider that less likely (and I’m just a dumb human relying on instinct here, in case that wasn’t clear) than asshole cops abusing their power (i.e., neighbors, on average, have much less incentive to F with me or my house than cops do). I understand this isn’t exactly coherent, and that once asshole cops get wise to my instincts, they’re liable to figure out ways to convince neighbors to call stuff in. But I can’t get away from, if my neighbor calls to report someone unknown entering my house, I’m not only OK with, but I want them going in if no one answers the door or detaining (politely of course) the person who does until their identity/ownership/right to be in the house can be verified. Of course i may be one more run in with the cops away from abandoning that position.

        I’m a complete Radley Balko fanboy though. He induces vomit nearly twice a week to start my workday by reminding me of the current state of affairs in criminal justice. I think its the single biggest issue facing our country moving forward.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I agree with much of what you say here. But, naturally, I’m going to focus on the part I don’t so much agree with: detaining politely.

        I do agree that if they must detain someone in this type of situation, it should be done as politely as possible (and a few of us, myself included, have offered suggestions for how that might go down). But suppose the young man wanted to leave the home and go on his way. Should he be detained? Forced to stay? Held against his will? That seems a bit perverse… he is being stopped for being someone they don’t think he should be and upon attempting to leave, they force him to stay? I recognize that if he WAS a burglar but had not yet committed a provable crime, letting him go is not without its potential negative consequences. But he will eventually be let go. We don’t (yet) lock people up for life for B&Es. And given that there is no indisputable evidence of a crime, attempting to prevent him from leaving is problematic. Should he insist on leaving, I’d want the cops to get his info, contact the home owners, and maintain a presence in the area for the time being. It’s not a perfect solution, but preferable to detaining someone, even politely.

        tl;dr: I’d want the cops to interact with the person politely but not detain them.Report

      • Avatar switters says:

        I think i’m down with that. If the guy wants to leave, I think they should let him go. If he wants to stay, I think “detaining” for the purpose of politely determining (and the use of cameras would make making this determination after the fact pretty easy) whether or not he has a right to be there is the right move.

        Next question though. If he decides to leave, do the cops have the right to make a cursory sweep of the house to make sure there are no other victims or perps in the house? Can they detain the person long enough to accomplish this. I say yes, to both, at least under the assumption said person was able to produce no evidence that he lived or had a right to be there.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I don’t know the “rules of engagement” for cops. I would say that, in the situation as we understand it, I would not one them to forcibly detain him even to do a sweep. If they have to put their hands on him, they’ve gone too far. Now, I think a quick sweep of the house as part of the investigation would be appropriate. And if he tried to leave, I would be okay with them following him. If he tried to run, that would probably be sufficient to say, “Too many things are amiss here” and to forcibly detain him. I’m sure the cops would rather not get to that point, but I’m sure the young man here would have rather not been pepper sprayed.

        Here’s my big question: How did the cops respond when the young man said, “I live here.” If they responded with suspicion, I would say at that point they already “blew” the situation. Even if they WERE suspicious, they should have gone with, “Oh, really? Great. Listen, we’re really sorry about this, but standard operating procedure requires we verify that. A simple check of your ID will suffice. Oh, your ID has a different address? Okay. Well, that would make sense if you were recently fostered here. How else can we verify this? You understand why we have to verify this. It’s not that we don’t believe you but, ya know, you can imagine how much shit we’d be in in the very unlikely event you don’t live here. It’s not that we think you don’t. Just, ya know, we have to cross our T’s and dot our i’s.”

        In my experience, cops almost reflexively treat people they engage with — even victims and witnesses — with disrespect.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        A few years ago I brought Balko to my school to give a talk and had a couple of dinners with him. In addition to doing great work, he’s a really nice guy, too.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @kazzy @switters

        “In my experience, cops almost reflexively treat people they engage with — even victims and witnesses — with disrespect.”


        But, I just want to point out again as switters has, while the stuff you guys have been outlining sounds pretty good (I do still have some questions, relating to whether or not we think cops should be able to search someone who wants to leave, to make sure they haven’t pocketed a key or bank statement/credit card, but maybe I’ll just save those for another time) we don’t in fact know that the cops were the d**ks here (safe bet? Probably. But we don’t know).

        And even if they DID do everything right, an innocent person STILL might become agitated enough, sooner or later, to take a swing, at which point they are going to be subdued one way or another, in or on their own property.

        Maybe they are drunk, or tired, or short-tempered, or unfamiliar with US cops, or looking for a lawsuit payout.

        And when that inevitably happens, even though the cops did everything they could to avoid escalation, we will be having this exact same discussion; because from the outside, we don’t know what went down.

        Cops HAVE to start wearing cameras.

        If they want us to ever accept their word again that they are doing the best that they can, we are going to need to see that, more than once.Report

  11. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Question for any lawyers on the thread…

    Suppose the cops saw some drugs in the kitchen that belonged to the parents. Can they then be arrested? If so, I fear we’ve created a huge end-run around the 4th.

    “Hey, Mrs. Johnson, do you see anything suspicious going on over at the Smiths? Some noises, you say? We should investigate!”Report

    • Avatar switters says:

      Well, yes that is an end-run. But not one just created. Its been that way for as long as i can remember. Wouldn’t be enough to storm the property, but it could be enough (probably need a little more specificity than suspicious noises) to get a warrant, and frequently is. Hell,it doesn’t even have to be a neighbor. I could be a two bit dealer looking to convince the DA to reduce his sentence. And I agree, this is extremely unfortunate.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      We’ll let the lawyers answer that question (I believe that the parents can in fact be arrested, AND that this very same loophole has been abused in the past) – and, I am a big, BIG fan of the 4th – but had the cops instead called this kid out onto the porch to be questioned, where he’d gotten agitated and then gotten pepper-sprayed, we’d still be talking about that, I suspect.

      IOW, it’s mainly the fact that *we* know what *they* did not (that the kid had a right to be exactly where he was, and to be mad about being questioned about it) that gets our dander up, not really so much the fact that the cops entered the house.

      That’s a sidebar to what we are considering “outrageous”, IMO (or maybe is its own separate outrage).Report

  12. Avatar Glyph says:

    Now this is definitely an outrage:

    (via BoingBoing).

    The family of 17-year-old Marcel Hamer has released a cell-phone clip of a plainclothes New York City police officer hitting the teen while he lies in the gutter pleading one afternoon over the summer. Lawyers for Hamer say their client was suspected of smoking marijuana, but was ultimately just charged with disorderly conduct. “Mister, it was just a cigarette, sir,” says Hamer in the video, right before a partially obscured strike that appears to leave him unconscious.

    “Do you wanna get fucked up?” the officer says. “Yeah, get it on film,” he tells the boy’s friends.

    Brooklyn Paper reports that the June 4 incident is under investigation by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. Hamer’s family says he has suffered from memory loss, dizziness, and headaches ever since.

    Cameras. Cameras cameras cameras.Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’m curious… has anyone figured out the title of the post?Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy says:


    (DOWN HERE!)

    I can’t really disagree with anything here. But a few thoughts…

    1.) Our justice system offers a presumption of innocence AND demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And while I realize the police are not the courts, it seems that the cops operate almost antithetical to these. They presume guilt and often act in complete absence of evidence. This is very problematic. You are right to say, “We don’t know what happened there.” But that works both ways. The cops shouldn’t be able to hide behind, “You weren’t there, man. You don’t know what went down.” Fuck that. You are an arm of the government. You are the state. You need to do a lot more than just say, “Trust us… we did what we had to do.” Especially when your group has collectively so flagrantly violated that trust. If these cops can’t present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that their actions were justified, action should be taken against them. And that is where your second point comes in.

    2.) I agree with you fully on cameras. I’m curious… dream a dreamer’s dream and imagine that every cop has a camera. What do you think happens: more altercations in which we say, “Man, that cop was aces!” -OR- fewer altercations? Good cops should welcome cameras. Those who so virulently resist them should be looked at… like, well, looked at the way the cops look at us.Report