Why was this Officer Held Responsible for his Actions?

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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47 Responses

  1. Sam says:

    I had a similar conversation on Facebook, and we all agreed that the optics of police officers being found guilty – in the very rare occasions that such justice occurs – are almost always ugly. And whether or not it is intentional is really beside the point, although after so many occurrences, it seems impossible to deny that justice is almost always more likely to be visited upon minority officers than it is upon the white ones.

    America is a broken sewer.Report

    • notme in reply to Sam says:

      Why are the optics “ugly?” This is manslaughter pure and simple. BLM should be happy. Or maybe not, they are probably unhappy it wasn’t a white officer that was found guilty. So know you are saying the only reason he was found guilty was because he was a minority? That makes me laugh, b/c clearly everything is racist all the time, without fail. What was more likely is that he committed the crime at the zenith of recent scrutiny of police actions.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

        It isn’t about the guilt, it’s about the zeal (or, in this case, the lack of it) that the NYPD & the police union display in protecting officers who screw up.

        The optics are that Liang was hung out to dry, that the department and the union basically gave the DA the A-OK to prosecute the rookie so they could all look tough and serious about police use of force. Liang was sacrificial.

        And yet again, the DA, PD, and the union demonstrate their myopic view. Burning a rookie doesn’t help. Rookies aren’t supposed to know better, that’s why they are rookies. Now had they put his training officer and chain of command out in the metaphorical stocks for failing to properly train the rookie, that might be different. But they didn’t, they tossed out a guy with barely any time in, someone who wasn’t “valuable” yet. It’s like Telling Jay Leno he has too many cars and has to give one up to satisfy the environmentalists, and he tosses out the Toyota Corolla.Report

        • notme in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          The optics are that Liang was hung out to dry……

          Whose optics, the blacks, Asians, liberals, whites or cops’ optics? According to my optics he was appropriately found guilty.

          Rookies aren’t supposed to know better, that’s why they are rookies.

          Generally, I would agree but this guy’s actions went beyond FNG stupidity. Besides this guy had been out of the academy for more than a year. Long enough to know about indexing your finger on your weapon.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

            Make no mistake, I absolutely agree that Liang screwed up and needed to be prosecuted. That is not the issue*.

            The issue is that so many other officers screw up in similarly obvious ways and the system heroically covers for them. As it stands, the only time police go on trial is when they commit criminal acts that so clearly fall outside any hope of a line of duty ruling that they pretty much have no choice. If the act can be covered under line of duty, it will be. Police are largely immune to their acts, if it can’t be ignored, it’s obfuscated by time and opacity until it is largely forgotten, and when it can’t be ignored, the DA tends to deliver the “correct” result through the Grand Jury system or their discretion to prosecute. And finally, even if the officer is so bad the department fires them, union review boards have a habit of forcing the department to give the officer his job back.

            Now, notme, I can almost hear your retort, that the majority of those decisions not to prosecute are “correct”, so I have to wonder, when was the last time you thought the decision not to prosecute a cop was wrong? And how do you square the prosecution rate of cops with the knowledge that everyone screws up, and most civilians who do actually face an indictment? Police can not be more perfect that everyone else.

            *You are absolutely correct, so one has to wonder, who taught this guy that doing verticals with an un-holstered weapon was the right way to do it. I suspect the reality is similar to the Baltimore PD, where actual policy is largely ignored until it bites someone in the ass.Report

            • notme in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              For the most part, I’m fine with the tie going to the cops, however, I do think they get away with too much when justifying shootings as the result of a furtive movement. Civilians would have to show they saw a weapon when the cops don’t always have to.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

                Good, we have a point of agreement. That standard bugs me as well, but I also recognize that the courts are largely responsible for the acceptance of that double standard (defendants make the argument and judges are just fine letting it fly for cops, when the same would not fly for a civilian).Report

        • Barry in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          “The optics are that Liang was hung out to dry, that the department and the union basically gave the DA the A-OK to prosecute the rookie so they could all look tough and serious about police use of force. Liang was sacrificial.”

          Or rather that a rookie/non-white officer was not given the usual protection.Report

  2. greginak says:

    It’s unlikely his race didn’t’ play a part in his conviction. But if officers are held responsible that is good. Nobody is saying he wasn’t guilty so his punishment is then fair. That white officers are getting off needs to be remembered and loudly spoken the next time to maybe start pushing the needle towards all cops being held responsible.

    The tragedy isn’t Liang, its all the others.Report

  3. Doctor Jay says:

    I kind of doubt that Robert E. Brown doesn’t understand how racism works. I fact, I think he’s obliquely referencing, while saying the sort of thing that most helps his client. That’s why he says, “I honestly don’t know” first.

    No, it’s not fair or right. I’m not arguing either of those. I’m just saying that’s my read of the quote.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    There were 15 police shootings of black guys in stairwells last night and *THIS* is the one that they plaster all over the nightly news!

    There’s no good way to complain about this outcome.
    There’s no good way to suggest that we ought to have had a different outcome.

    The entire system is rotten.Report

  5. greginak says:

    It seems like the issue was that he wasn’t protected, potentially, by racism. He was appropriately held to the standards of the law. That isn’t an injustice towards the cop.Report

  6. Speaking of officers failing to give aid to people they just shot, the city of Cleveland sued Tamir Rice’s estate to pay for the ambulance that didn’t save him.Report

  7. Kim says:

    In the past month, a black man was brutally executed by police for killing a police dog.
    It didn’t need to happen.
    I doubt any of them are going to be punished.Report

  8. notme says:


    Why was this Officer Held Responsible for his Actions?

    Because his actions clearly met the standard for charges of manslaughter and the jury agreed.

    But why are we enforcing the rules now?

    I’m not sure you are asking the right question. The rules are enforced. The cops in the Rice case had their action reviewed and no indictment was given, unlike the cops in the Freddie Gray case. It seems to me that you are really asking why a cop was now found guilty. Maybe it is as simple as the fact that Liang’s actions were so clearly illegal?Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    I didn’t know anything about this case until I saw big headlines on the train. Not knowing the details, my initial thoughts were similar to those expressed here: It is good when we hold police responsible for their actions, but it is concerning if we do so selectively, especially with race as a prime factor.Report

  10. Kazzy says:

    It seems worth pointing out that the primary purpose of stairwell patrols are carrying out the war on drugs. Culpability lies with more than just this officer.Report

    • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

      Culpability lies with more than just this officer.

      No culpability only lies with him. He chose to draw his weapon and he chose to put his finger on the trigger.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

        So every death in every war lies solely on the head of the people pulling the triggers. The various leaders who put them in those positions have zero culpability?Report

        • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

          You are now talking about wars? I thought this thread was a police shooting? Am I in the wring thread or are you changing the subject? I know liberals are often seeking to escape individual responsibility but this is silly.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

            It’s an analogy. Show why it doesn’t work. You said the person pulling the trigger is solely culpable. I’m asking if this applies to soldiers. It’s a simple question. But you’d rather dodge and dig then engage. Typical.Report

            • Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

              From one of the NYT links:

              a longtime police practice of officers drawing their weapons when patrolling stairwells in housing projects.

              I don’t know how to appropriately allocate blame here, but this is a seriously fished up state we find ourselves in. I’m guessing there is a great big yarn that can be spun about how we got there, none of it involving Liang.

              Still, if Liang had even half-heartedly attempted to practice proper trigger discipline, that guy would be alive.

              To state it a bit more plainly, any bad thing can have multiple parties who could be blamed even if there is one person who is clearly at the center of it and should receive proximate blame.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                I agree, Vikram. If it seemed I was arguing that Liang had no culpability, I structured my argument poorly. This wasn’t a cop who went rogue or who was uniquely incompetent or negligent. This was a cop on a problematic mission employing poor form who royally fucked up.Report

  11. InMD says:

    I’ve been following this case from the beginning. Without knowing the minds of the jurors it’s impossible to rule out any type of racism in the conviction but I don’t see any evidence to support it.

    I think that the optics on this one didn’t sufficiently meet a mainstream political narrative (hence the relative quiet by the media). The shoot was unintentional, the victim was an African immigrant, the officer is Asian, and most importantly from the NYPD’s perspective, the case didn’t really implicate LEO self-defense/use of force (at least not the way the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown did).

    My opinion is that Officer Leong’s biggest error wasnt being Chinese. It was meeting the ‘one bad apple’/’one incompetent officer’ narrative that the police have long been comfortable with. If Leong was a sacrificial lamb (again, an assumption) then it’s because his conviction did not threaten the broader lack of accountability police enjoy during interactions with the public, particularly regarding use of force during arrest.Report